Euro 2016 last 16: Italy can overcome Spain as European royalty collide
Holly Thackeray | June 25, 2016
Italy v Spain
- Euro 2016 last 16
- Monday, June 27th
- Kick-off: 17:00 BST
- Stade de France, Saint-Denis
- Live on BBC One
La Roja set for rocky Azzurri encounter
Euro 2016’s last 16 has drawn up a brilliant bunch of battles that would usually be saved for later stages, and none more enthralling than Italy’s scrap with reigning champions Spain, in a show-stopping repeat of Euro 2012’s finale.
As the pick of the eight round of 16 encounters, La Roja and the Azzurri with their contrasting approaches have a lot to live up to, but Coral have the pair priced at a plum 2/1 to see out a draw in 90 minutes.
There’s a heap of good reasoning behind this, as there have been 10 triumphs apiece for the pair as well as 14 draws in their 34 previous frays, including a March friendly match-up that ended evenly. And, though there are six places in the FIFA ranking between this duo, it is tough to see where the difference can be made judged on competition outings so far.
Spain have sashayed between sparkling splendour, as they strung together 20 plus passes to tear apart Turkey, and also toothless displays lacking their usual potent panache to finish just second behind Croatia in their pool.
Still, as successive winners firmly ingrained with the habit of success, Vicente del Bosque’s boys are 6/5 match favourites.
What does Coral football ambassador Alan Shearer think ahead of Italy v Spain? Here are his thoughts on this last 16 battle:
Italy seeking to shut out Spanish
While, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Italy (13/8 to qualify for the quarter-finals) ran out as group E victors with a game to spare. The Azzurri overcame underwhelming expectations along the way with staunch defensive performances to resist both Belgium and Sweden, surrendering only to the Republic of Ireland with their second string at the death.
Customers can back incoming Chelsea coach Conte at 10/3 to guide his stubborn side to success across 90 minutes. If any side can resist Spanish silk it looks to be the Azzurri and their robust rearguard, though Italian tactics may lend themselves better to a 12/1 punt on an extra-time triumph.
Having conceded just one strike in the competition so far, courtesy of that dramatic late Robbie Brady header, Conte is 2/1 to see his team keep a clean sheet yet again.
Up top trying to pierce Spain’s backline should be Graziano Pelle (a sweet 7/4 in the anytime market), after the Southampton striker was rested against the Republic along with energetic attacking partner Eder Citadin Martins (13/2 for the first goal).
The pair’s movement has been crucial to Azzurri counters, but it is back-up option Lorenzo Insigne who masterfully made the difference when Italy last scored against Spain. Having come within inches as a substitute against the Irish, Napoli’s Insigne is 8/1 for the final say.
Chiellini and co can have measure of Morata
As an intriguing subplot, this glamour game also pits soon-to-be Chelsea tactician Conte up against a handful of his next charges, including Blues boys Cesc Fabregas and Caesar Azpilicueta.
Spain found themselves unusually outperformed in midfield by Croatia, but Fabregas has been around the block and is 10/3 to impress his new boss by bagging anytime.
The Chelsea midfielder said of past encounters with Italy: “In all honesty, it will be very difficult to beat you. Almost every game between Italy and Spain is 50-50, apart from the Euro 2012 Final, which is the only one I remember with a real gap.”
La Roja also ousted Italy at the quarter-final stage at Euro 2008 on penalties, and are 9/1 to clinch the spoils on spot-kicks yet again.
Aiming to stop this star-studded scuffle going down to the wire will be main Spain marksman Alvaro Morata, who jointly leads Euro scoring so far with three goals.
Morata is even-money to add to his tally anytime but must first find a way past former Juventus clubmates and defensive trio Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonnucci and Andrea Barzagli, all of whom know his game in great detail.
The Spanish sharpshooter’s ex-Old Lady strike partner Paulo Dybala told press: “Poor Morata…In training he jokingly always said he didn’t want to play against Giorgio because he was scared.”
If Morata cannot find the net, Spain still have plenty of options to undo Italy. Late bloomer Aritz Aduriz (11/2 to be last on target) struck home against Italy in March, while Manchester City target Nolito has already opened his account is 2/1 to add to it anytime.