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Spain v Italy
One of the few innovations from UEFA that have worked, the UEFA Nations League has become a showpiece of the footballing calendar in recent years, enabling the top teams to match up against each other in a more competitive environment, as opposed to one-off friendlies.
The second of the UEFA Nations League semi-finals are taking place on Thursday night, so it’s time for some Spain vs Italy bet-builder tips as La Roja and Gli Azzurri battle for a place in the final in the Netherlands. This semi-final duel is taking place at FC Twente’s stadium in Enschede and the fans in attendance will be witnessing a classic European rivalry, the 40th meeting between these sides.
When making any Spain vs Italy bet builder predictions, it’s worth remembering that this has been an even rivalry over the years, with Spain winning 12, Italy 11, and 16 of the matches being drawn.
The most recent Spain vs Italy game was at this same level of competition, in the 2021 Nations League semi-finals when the Spanish won 2-1 in Milan thanks to two Ferran Torres goals. That was a very different Spain team, though, as Luis Enrique was in charge. He’s now out of the picture, replaced by Luis de la Fuente, while Ferran Torres isn’t even in the squad.
The Italy coach that day was Roberto Mancini and he is still in charge, so putting together an Italy bet builder is a simpler task, as the Italian project is further along than that of the Spanish. This should be a tight game, but Italy have what it takes to win it and there is an attractive Italy bet builder at odds of 7.46, which is detailed below.
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New Spain coach Luis de la Fuente is already under pressure
Luis de la Fuente may only have coached two matches so far since being promoted from U21s coach to the senior boss, but already he is under pressure and there have been some reports suggesting a poor performance in the Nations League could see him fired already.
After starting with a 3-0 home win over Norway in March, with a performance that was less convincing than the scoreline suggests, Spain then fell to a 2-0 defeat away at Scotland, with De La Fuente’s decision-making ripped apart in the Spanish media, especially the fact that he gave out so many minutes to inexperienced players.
We’re playing for a title in two games, it’s a historic opportunity.”Spanish coach Luis de la Fuente on the upcoming Nations League tie
He remains bullish and claims to have put together “the perfect squad list” for this Nations League Final Four. That list has 16 different clubs represented, includes eight players with 10 caps or fewer and has eight new faces compared to his previous squad list. In other words, he seems to be picking individuals rather than looking to build a team or any consistency.
Jordi Alba has been named the captain for the Nations League, which is more of a sentimental gesture than anything else since his time within the Spain set-up is coming to an end, so this is another example of De La Fuente’s peculiar decision-making. Many in Spain fear the trip to the Netherlands for the Nations League could go very wrong.
Spain team news
In addition to some of the odd squad selections made by Luis de la Fuente, he has also had a few forced changes due to injuries. Pedri and Alejandro Balde were both unavailable as they finished the season with injuries, while David García, Juan Bernat, and Nico Williams were all forced to withdraw from the squad, being replaced by Nacho, Fran García, and Ansu Fati respectively.
Not being able to call up Pedri or Balde is a blow, as they are two of the best Spanish players right now. But, the other injured players were unlikely to start anyway.
De La Fuente has confirmed that both Aymeric Laporte and Rodri are available to play, despite playing the Champions League final on Saturday and celebrating it over the weekend. And, both are expected to start, so are up for consideration for any Spain bet builder.
Italy want to bounce back with another trophy
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Italy, who missed out on World Cup qualification after winning Euro 2020, and now stand a chance of winning more international silverware if they can beat Spain to reach the Nations League final.
Their form has recovered significantly since the shock World Cup defeat to North Macedonia, winning six games since, but they have also struggled against some high-profile nations with defeats to Argentina, Germany and England in the past 12 months. Spain will provide another tough test for coach Roberto Mancini, who has looked to bring in new faces to his squad.
They are a young team like us, so I think we can take them on”Italian ace Wilfried Gnonto’s thoughts on the Thursday night clash
“We certainly didn’t think we’d get to the Final Four because it was a difficult group and we were making some changes,” Mancini reflected, speaking before this match, particularly on the way that results have come in line with Italy’s stats. “I think we did a great job with the way we put the pieces together and the way we won the last two games.”
That has included bringing in the likes of Mateo Retegui, Wilfried Gnonto, Giacomo Raspadori and Davide Frattesi to add some youth and energy, with almost all of the old guard moving on. In fact, of the current squad, Leonardo Bonucci is the only veteran remaining, with Ciro Immobile, Jorginho and Marco Verratti now the most senior players alongside him.
They will be looking to use their experience, including that win at Wembley Stadium in 2021 over England, to help them reach another final in continental competition to recover from the heartbreak of missing out on the Qatar World Cup.
Italy team news
Roberto Mancini is likely to stick to a similar system deployed in the March international break, sticking with the same 4-3-3 shape with Mateo Retegui again leading the line after scoring in his first two appearances for Italy earlier this year. He’s likely to get the nod ahead of Ciro Immobile, who has not played for Italy since March 2022 and made only two more appearances since Euro 2020.
Mattia Zaccagini and Nicolò Zaniolo have both been included in this squad after missing out on the March fixtures, but are unlikely to make the line-up for this match.
In defence, Mancini has only had a few days to work with his Internazionale players, but Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni and Federico Dimarco will all be in his team looking to replicate the strong display which kept Erling Haaland quiet in the Champions League final.
Spain v Italy Cheat Sheet
In terms of Spain vs Italy stats, neither team has a truly prolific goalscorer in their ranks. Spain’s forwards are Rodrigo Moreno (137 minutes per goal in 2022/23) Marco Asensio (167), Álvaro Morata (167), Ansu Fati (183), Joselu (190), Dani Olmo (328) and Yeremy Pino (743), while Italy’s are Mateo Retegui (150), Ciro Immobile (196), Giacomo Raspadori (226), Federico Chiesa (372) and Wilfried Gnonto (462).
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Spain v Italy bet builder tips
Spain v Italy
The early signs suggest that Spain’s decision to sack Luis Enrique and replace him with Luis de la Fuente was rash. The individuals that make up the current Spanish national team are not at the level of a decade ago, even less so if Pedri and Alejandro Blade are out injured, but the drop-off in coaching is even more significant. Italy, meanwhile, have a tournament-winning coach in Roberto Mancini. While he did oversee the failure to reach the World Cup, Mancini was at least in charge during the current Nations League campaign and they topped a group containing England and Germany. This Spain team is certainly beatable too, as Scotland proved in March.
When making Spain vs Italy bet builder predictions, it’s worth keeping in mind that clashes between these two old foes tend to be very tight. Of their eight meetings across the past decade, there have been just 15 total goals, working out at 1.73 per 90 minutes, including the periods of extra time played. Looking at the current teams, the weakest line for both is arguably their forward line, meaning another tight and low-scoring battle should be expected.
The Netherlands’ Jurriën Timber is the only defender in League A of the Nations League to have committed more fouls per 90 than Dani Carvajal this season, with the Spaniard averaging a very high 2.18 fouls per 90 in the competition for Spain. He also ended the season in aggressive form, with yellow cards in each of his last three matches for Real Madrid, including 1.67 fouls per 90. The last of those games saw him fracture Yuri Berchiche’s leg with a violent kick, and up against an Italy side who conceded more fouls than any team other than Spain in the Nations League, Carvajal is likely to struggle up against the pace of Lorenzo Pellegrini and be drawn into at least one foul, making a good choice for this Spain bet builder.
Last but not least in this Spain vs Italy bet builder, we’re backing Italy’s man of the moment Mateo Retegui to continue his fine start to life in an Italian shirt. After deciding to select Italy as his national team, turning away world champions Argentina, he recorded a goal in each of his first two games against England and Malta in March. Mancini is expected to continue with him as his first-choice centre-forward against Spain, and given his record of 1.12 shots on target per 90 this season, he’ll be hoping to test Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simón.
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