After thousands of words worth of speculation from scribes worldwide, Vicente del Bosque has gone back to where he started. Cesc Fabregas will play as a 'striker', leading Spain's line with exactly the same starting eleven as faced Italy during their first match of the tournament. That's a contentious decision, but it's not necessarily a poor one - Italy's centre halves had trouble figuring out what to do in the opener, and this time Daniele di Rossi is in midfield and won't have quite as much time and space to distribute.
Spain need to answer questions about a cutting edge (or lack thereof) but it's worth pointing out that Fabregas was the one who scored the equaliser in that match. If that doesn't work, it's easy enough to introduce Fernando Torres, who caused Italy some problems with his movement when he came on against them last time out.
Italy have made one change - Federico Balzaretti has been dropped for the fit-again Ignazio Abate. It's an interesting decision on Cesare Prandelli's part, because Balzaretti had been the most in-form defender on the squad. Abate's the better call on paper, of course, but reintroducing him at a critical stage may have some adverse effects.
But it's more about the changes Prandelli didn't make. True to his word, Italy have not reverted to playing with a back three like they did in their first encounter with Spain - they're in a 4-3-1-2 this time out, which means they'll outnumber del Bosque's side in central midfield with a diamond. It's interesting that there's no place for Thiago Motta in the team, however, since Italy are going to need to work very hard chasing the ball, a task Motta is better suited for than Riccardo Montolivo, who remains in the lineup.
There's still a worrying lack of width in this Italy side. Antonio Cassano will rove down the wings, but that still leaves one flank vulnerable to a two on one overload (with Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba or the less dangerous duo of Alvaro Arbeloa and David Silva) against one of Abate and Juventus centre back Giorgio Chiellini. Sure, they don't have the likes of Fernando Llorente in the centre to exploit their advantage out wide, but Spain have been pretty good at creating from the flanks in this tournament, and that's where Italy are going to be at their most vulnerable.
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