A ri­valry re­newed in Turin

Spain and Italy clash in pick of the World Cup qual­i­fiers

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORTS -

Any game be­tween two of Europe’s lead­ing lights is worth watch­ing, but this par­tic­u­larly con­test is all the ricker thanks to the in­trigu­ing sub­plots.

Spain are look­ing to avenge their Euro 2016 last-16 de­feat to Italy, while both coun­tries are un­der new man­age­ment and de­ter­mined to prove they can be a threat at the World Cup.

In the Stade de France it was the tac­ti­cal ge­nius of An­to­nio Conte that tri­umphed, with a dis­ci­plined Italy se­cur­ing a throughly de­served 2-0 win.

In con­trast for Spain, it was the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin for the hugely suc­cess­ful Vi­cente del Bosque.

La Roja looked stale and a change was clearly needed.

In came Julen Lopetegui who has quickly earned praise from in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder Ser­gio Bus­quets.

“The two have more or less the same sys­tem but with Lopetegui we are work­ing more tac­ti­cally, there is much more em­pha­sis on that, but more or less they are quite sim­i­lar,” said the Barca star.

Bus­quets played down the idea of re­venge, but Italy de­fender Leonardo Bonucci feels the Span­ish will have some ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion.

“We’re ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent Spain side with re­spect to the one we faced at the Eu­ros,” said the Juventus de­fender. “They will have fresh mo­ti­va­tion, they’ll be in a new state of mind and look­ing to avenge their Euro 2016 de­feat.” Italy are also un­der new man­age­ment, with Gi­ampiero Ven­tura re­plac­ing Conte. But while Spain looked re­vi­talised un­der their new boss, putting eight unan­swered goals past min­nows Liecht­en­stein, Italy were torn apart by France in a 3-1 de­feat and didn’t look much bet­ter in a 3-1 vic­tory over Is­rael in Haifa. “We have to step up a gear with re­spect to how we played against Is­rael,” added Bonucci [pic­tured]. “To­tally, yes. Spain are favourites and if we’re to up­set pre­dic­tions we’ll have to play like we did at the Eu­ros, with pace, com­mit­ment and by be­ing clin­i­cal in front of goal.”

With only one side guar­an­teed au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the World Cup in Rus­sia, the clash be­tween the two Euro­pean gi­ants takes on ex­tra sig­nif­i­cance. And Ven­tura is fully aware of just how big this game is.

“They’re the strongest op­po­nents in the group,” he said. “Since Lopetegui took over they’ve changed the way they play, and their ap­proach to games. He’s given them an adrenalin boost, and con­vic­tion.” Spain face Italy at 10.45pm tonight with live cov­er­age on AD Sports 4HD

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