Sam Marsden’s Italy v Spain preview: Luis Enrique’s side face their biggest test yet
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Spain throughout Euro 2020
Spain have lurched from one extreme to the other during Euro 2020. They went from struggling to score in their opening games against Sweden and Poland to exploding, like a bottle of cava as coach Luis Enrique said, in five-goal wins over Slovakia and Croatia.
In the quarter-final, it was the profligate Spain that returned as they needed penalties to beat Switzerland. Playing against 10 men for the final 40 minutes, they could not beat goalkeeper Yann Sommer, with substitute Gerard Moreno guilty of missing the most chances.
There has been criticism and euphoria. Criticism of a squad containing no Real Madrid players and of a team that failed to win its first two games. Euphoria as La Roja ended a run of five missed spot kicks to win a shootout and make the semi-final of a major tournament for the first time since they won Euro 2012.
However, against Italy this young group of players face their biggest test yet. They will be underdogs for the first time in the tournament. In theory, that could suit them, but Italy’s defensive unit is unlikely to afford them the space other big nations may have left them.
In terms of personnel, 18-year-old Pedri will again be leaned upon to provide the creativity to unlock the Italians, while Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres are likely to be two of the front three. Luis Enrique will keep the third member of that trident, Pablo Sarabia in the last two games, a secret.
But it’s at the back where Italy may smell blood. Spain haven’t yet paid for defensive mix-ups in the knock-out rounds but Roberto Mancini’s side are unlikely to be so forgiving. Even in defeat, though, a last-four exit would still represent progress for an emerging Spain side ahead of next year’s World Cup.