It’s the slick passing game of current World and European champions Barcelona – sorry, Spain – against the defensive focus of Juventus – sorry, Italy. A fascinating clash of styles that, until recently, might have guaranteed a tight game. But three consecutive losses for injury-plagued Italy, including a 3-0 drubbing by tournament dark horses Russia, suggests otherwise.
One way for Italy to try to combat a fluid Spain midfield featuring Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta, could be to swap to a 3-5-2 formation, with Daniele De Rossi dropping back into defence. But such a change at this late stage would be risky. Even bolder would be going 3-6-2. It’s never been attempted before but if Italy can sneak an extra player on to the pitch it could really help in shutting Spain out.
ONE TO WATCH: Fernando Torres. With Spain’s all-time top scorer David Villa out of the picture due to injury, the role of out-and-out striker is Torres’s. Does that irrelevant goal for Chelsea against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final really signal a renaissance for “El Nino”, or will he just mistime everything and fall over a lot like he did in the World Cup?
ONE FOR STATS FANS: Can Spain midfielder Xavi ensure his pass completion percentage of 94.9, set during qualifying, remains ahead of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s shot’s-saved percentage of 92.9? And can you stay awake long enough to find out?
PREDICTION: 0-0’s always a possibility when Italy are involved but let’s hope Spain can find a way to play football: 2-0.