HEAVY­WEIGHTS GO HEAD-TO HEAD . . .

The Herald - Herald Sport - - EURO 2016 -

This is a big meet­ing of two of Europe’s gi­ants early in the knock­out stage. Spain beat Italy en route to glory in both of the last two Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships, on penal­ties in the quar­ter-fi­nals in 2008 and 4-0 in the 2012 fi­nal. They also drew in the group stages four years ago. With Spain un­beaten in the last five meet­ings be­tween the sides, Italy may feel they are due a win. FORM Italy, with­out many ma­jor head­line fig­ures, were not hugely fan­cied com­ing into the tour­na­ment but their 2-0 win over highly-rated Bel­gium in their first game changed per­cep­tions. It was a dis­ci­plined, well-or­gan­ised and ef­fi­cient dis­play. Since then they have not been scin­til­lat­ing, with a nar­row win over Swe­den pre­ced­ing de­feat by the Repub­lic of Ire­land. Spain opened with a win over the Czech Repub­lic and then looked su­perb as they thrashed Turkey 3-0. But then came an un­ex­pected loss to an al­beit ex­cel­lent Croa­tia, when they sur­ren­dered a lead and missed a penalty. It makes the next game tough to call. RE­SPONSE TO DE­FEAT Italy went into the Ire­land match know­ing that they had al­ready won Group E and made eight changes. Be­cause of that coach An­to­nio Conte will feel the re­sult can quickly be writ­ten off. Ire­land were a team need­ing to win to progress and they even­tu­ally pre­vailed with a late goal. Spain’s loss to Croa­tia, how­ever, was a sur­prise. It cost them top spot in Group D and brought them some sting­ing crit­i­cism from the Span­ish press. Coach Vi­cente del Bosque has ob­vi­ously been here be­fore, though, and will back his play­ers to bounce back. CONTE & FABRE­GAS The match throws up an in­trigu­ing clash be­tween Italy’s Chelseabound coach Conte and Blues’ Span­ish mid­fielder Cesc Fabre­gas. Fabre­gas has en­joyed a rea­son­ably good tour­na­ment so far and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Conte plans to com­bat him, with re­ports he could make some tac­ti­cal changes. Fabre­gas has al­ready said he would like Conte to get started at Chelsea as soon as pos­si­ble, jok­ing: “Hope­fully from Tues­day he can con­cen­trate on his new job.” ITALY DIS­CI­PLINE Italy will be forced into one change with An­to­nio Can­dreva out in­jured but they also have 10 play­ers in their squad just one book­ing away from a ban. If they take a ro­bust ap­proach to se­cure vic­tory, it could come at a cost later in the tour­na­ment.

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