Italy and Spain are preparing to face one another for the 10th time at a major tournament, but Luis Enrique believes this is an Azzurri side like never before.
Both Italy and Spain will aim to dominate their Euro 2020 semi-final, Luis Enrique says, but only one can succeed.
The two old rivals have been paired again in the semi-finals at Euro 2020, making this the most common fixture at the European Championship and World Cup combined.
This will be the seventh Euros clash, with the sides meeting at least once in four consecutive championships. Spain eliminated Italy in 2008 and beat them in the final in 2012 but were toppled by the Azzurri four years later and now face a rejuvenated Roberto Mancini outfit.
“This Italy side isn’t, perhaps, like the ones of years gone by – one that would sit back and wait to see what happened,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said. “This is an Italy side with great players who aim to have a lot of possession. This will be the first battle in the game: who dominates possession? I don’t think both of us can dominate, so it’ll be interesting to see who wins this tussle.
“Apart from having top players, Italy are a real team. They attack and defend as a unit, which is really similar to what we do. They also employ a high press, which it would be hard to imagine an Italian side from the past doing. Now they’re strong in several ways of playing, meaning that the game will be really interesting. Both teams will have their moments.”
Mancini, whose men are unbeaten in 32 and have won 13 in a row, was asked how Italy’s Jorginho might match up against Sergio Busquets. Among midfielders to have played 90 minutes or more at the tournament, Busquets and Jorginho rank highest for passes attempted.
“Certainly, they are among the best in their role,” Mancini said. “Busquets has been a fantastic player for many years. He has been around for longer, compared to Jorginho. Considering the way he is playing right now, however, Jorginho is certainly among the best, too.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Italy – Emerson
Leonardo Spinazzola has been one of the tournament’s most impressive players at wing-back for Italy, creating seven chances from open play – including one assist. Emerson is likely to be the man asked to step in, having replaced Spinazzola against Belgium after he was taken off on a stretcher, and has big boots to fill.
Spain – Pedri
Busquets might have been the man at the centre of pre-match discussion, but Pedri has arguably been Spain’s most impressive midfield performer at these finals. Against Switzerland, he created five chances and made five tackles.