Warsaw: The standout clash of the first round of games at Euro 2012 sees defending champions Spain take on four time World Cup winners Italy in the PGE Arena, Gdansk.
Spain come into the tournament as worthy favourites having cruised through qualifying, winning all eight games and scoring 26 goals in the process.
Vicente del Bosque has the luxury of having a squad of world class superstars to choose from. Captain Iker Casillas will no doubt start in goal with a back four expected to be Alvaro Arbeloa, Barcelona pair Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique with Jordi Alba at left back.
The midfield options are a "who’s who" of world class talent. Xavi – Euro 2008 player of the tournament – should be joined by club teammate Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso. David Silva and Andres Iniesta will provide the creative spark for the loneman upfront.
Del Bosque main selection “headache” might be who he starts as his number 9 with David Villa still not recovered from a broken leg and Fernando Torres having a miserable season with Chelsea. Much of the talk in Spain is if David Villa does not make it, will the striker be Roberto Soldado or Fernando Llorente?
The Italians also qualified for Euro 2012 in impressive fashion winning eight of their ten games in qualifying.
Cesare Prandelli’s side will go into this game as many people’s underdog but he will no doubt be boosted by the Azzurri’s 2-1 win over Spain last August in Bari. Veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon will again captain the side with Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Criscito and Christian Maggio expected to man the defence. Midfield should consist of Juventus star Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta.
In attack, the Italians have been dealt a major blow with the news of Giuseppe Rossi missing the tournament with another knee injury so much debate has being going on about the possibility of Man City striker Mario Balotelli leading the line against the Spainish.
BDST: 2032 HRS, June 9, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom editor