Reigning champions Spain face a tough task in their opening Euro 2012 game, even if Italy have been far from impressive of late.
The Azzurri have a habit of exceeding expectations at major tournaments and La Furia Roja cannot afford to underestimate them.
Following a long trophy drought, Spain reminded everyone of the old glory days with the Euro 2008 title, whereas the 2010 World Cup trophy proved they have developed into a real force to be reckoned with.
As expected, Vincent del Bosque’s side eased off to the Euro 2012 and while they have experienced some problems in warm-up games, nobody doubts Spain will be mounting a serious title challenge in Poland and Ukraine.
Team’s preparations for the final tournament were marred by the absence of players from Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Chelsea, who were all in action after the end of the league championships, but the entire team is back together now and ready to shine at the biggest stage.
Even with Carles Puyol and David Villa missing, La Furia Roja are 3.80 (14/5) favourites with Bodog to win the coveted title.
Vincent del Bosque’s side are also expected to start their campaign with a win, and BetVictor has them at 1.83 (5/6) to do so.
Fernando Torres looks set to be preferred to Fernando Llorente up front, whereas Alvaro Arbeloa and Jesus Navas should be fit to play after recovering from injury.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Casillas – Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba – Xabi Alonso, Busquets, Xavi – Silva, Torres, Iniesta.
When all signs suggest that they are falling apart that is when Italy usually shine and such is a situation at the moment.
The Italian football has been rocked by the new match-fixing scandal, as a result of which full-back Domenico Criscito was dropped from the squad, while their recent showings in friendly games have been pretty disappointing.
However, even after three straight defeats in warm-up games and numerous selection problems, I am confident that the Azzurri will not disappoint at Euro 2012.
Cesare Prandelli has got a very balanced squad, filled with talent and experience, and he has players who are used to giving their best at tournament finals.
It is for that reason that I believe that Italy can once again go far, and I must admit odds of 2.10 (11/10) offered by 888sport on Azzurri not to lose look tempting.
After Andrea Barzagli was ruled out for the first two games, Cesare Prandelli is expected to switch to 3-5-2 formation, with Daniele De Rossi set to be deployed as a centre-back.
Probable starting line-up (3-5-2): Buffon – Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini – Maggio, Motta, Pirlo, Marchisio, Giaccherini – Cassano, Balotelli.