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Euro memories still fresh as Spain face Italy in WC qualifier (Preview)


Turin, Oct 5 (IANS) Spain will play perhaps the most vital game of their 2018 football World Cup qualifying campaign when they take on Italy here on Thursday. After their 8-0 win over Liechtenstein which kicked off their qualifying campaign in September, the Spaniards will travel with confidence.

However, they also have the memory fresh in their mind of how the Italians knocked them out of the European Championship in France in June and although both sides have changed coaches since that game, memories of the 2-0 win for Italy are still fresh, reports Xinhua.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has seen Javi Martinez and Saul Niguez suffer injuries which have seen them drop out of the game. And he will be slightly worried by the poor club form shown by defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Sergio Busquets in recent matches, as both have looked below their best for their respective clubs, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

However, the duo will be in a side made up of David de Gea in goal, with a defense of Jordi Alba, Dan Carvajal, Gerard Pique and Ramos.

Busquets will shore up the midfield alongside Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta, Koke and David Silva, while Manchester City's David Silva and Chelsea striker Diego Costa will play in attack.

Costa didn't play in the European Championship, but has made an excellent start to the season in England and will give the Spanish the aggression they were lacking in France over the summer.

Italy, meanwhile, will play their biggest match so far under new coach Giampiero Ventura, who replaced Antonio Conte after the Euro 2016.

"It will be a tactical match, they'll pressure us at the top, that's what Ventura's teams tend to play," attacker Jose Callejon said.

"The match could place us at the top of the standings, we have to look at it like that and try to win."

Ventura even though said that he sees the match as "important but not decisive", he is very much aware that this match can play a crucial role on who grab the top spot in their qualifying group.

In the absence of veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini, Ventura is expected to hand a debut to AC Milan's Alessio Romagnoli who will take a place alongside Juventus duo of Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci. Behind them in goal, will be captain Gianluigi Buffon, the 38-year-old Juventus icon.

Roma talisman Daniele De Rossi is set to be used as the playmaker with clubmate Alessandro Florenzi and Milan's Mattia De Sciglio in wing roles.

Lazio's Marco Parolo and Milan's Giacomo Bonaventura complete the midfield, while Inter Milan's Eder and Graziano Pelle, who now plays for Chinese club Shandong Luneng, remain the favourites to start in attack.

"We're playing a different team," warned Juventus defender Bonucci. "They will be more motivated, in better psychological and physical condition and they'll want revenge for the defeat at the Euros.

"They're the group favourites. They can pick some of the world's best players in every part of the pitch and, if we're to cause an upset, we'll have to play a hard-running game like we did in Paris and be clinical in front of goal."



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