Spain vs Italy

August 31, 2017
By: Milos Markovic

Tied in points and sitting atop of Group G, Spain and Italy square off at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night looking to open a gap at the summit and make an important step towards qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Spain preparing a surprise for Italy

Six rounds into the World Cup qualifiers and Spain are still undefeated with only the better goal difference keeping them in front of Italy at the standings. Having suffered a disappointing exit from the Euro 2016 at the hands of their Sautrday’s rivals, Spain have hired Julen Lopetegui to help them ease the transitional period and usher one of the best teams in the world into a new era. Lopetegui is doing a good job with his team as he went on a ten-game unbeaten run and is thought to be preparing a tactical surprise for the Azzurri hoping to catch them off guard. Spain are reportedly considering a false 9 against Italy in the absence of Diego Costa and a return to the tactical idea which helped La Roja destroy Italy in a 4-0 defeat in the Euro 2012 final when Cesk Fabregas was utilized as the false nine. David Silva is seen as the likeliest choice for the tactical innovation this time around, given the fact he been Spain’s top scorer since last summer, scoring eight goals under Lopetegui. Real Madrid starlet Marco Asensio is another viable option.

Real Madrid forward Lucas Vazquez has received a late call to replace Vitolo, who picked up a knee injury in training on Sunday. New York City FC striker David Villa returns to the national team following a highly prolific spell in the MLS.

All eyes on Marco Verratti

The forthcoming clash between Spain and Italy will be a battle of giants and a duel of the two talent-laden sides eager to put in a show on Saturday. With very little separating the two sides it is up to the head coaches to finetune their respective squads and implement subtle tactical details that could be of crucial importance. Just like their Saturday’s rivals, Italy are also going through a transitional period under a new manager who took the helm after the Euro 2016. Giampiero Ventura has been testing a couple of tactical ideas during the qualifying process and it is said he is prepared to go with 3-4-2-1 formation he sees as the best response to highly fluent and mobile Spanish side. Leonardo Bonnuci will reunite with his Juventus teammates Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini in defense, whereas the PSG playmaker Marco Verratti will be deployed as trequartista behind in-form Andrea Belotti and revitalized Ciro Immobile. Verrati is expected to be backed by a rugged midfield line consisting of Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi who will be in charge of doing the ‘dirty work’. Three points from Madrid would be of great significance for Italy in a crucial stage of the World Cup qualifiers and ahead of the Israel game scheduled for Monday.

Napoli midfielder Jorginho and Inter starlet Roberto Gagliardini are the two most notable omissions from the Italy squad for Spain and Israel. Leonardo Spinazzola got a nod in front of Mattia De Sciglio, whereas the absence of Federico Di Francesco is another surprise.


The majority of the meetings between Spain in Italy turned out to be low-scoring affairs which comes as little surprise given the quality of players both managers have at their disposal. The Azzurri are expected to adopt a defensive approach for the game in Madrid, whereas the Spanish side will be wary of a counterattack threat and we suggest betting on goals for this high-profile clash.

Top pick: Under 2.5 goals   1.57 (4/7) @Bet365

Alternative pick 1: Draw   3.5 (5/2) @Unibet

Alternative pick 2: Both teams to score – No   1.75 (3/4) @BetVictor

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