The second of the Confederations Cup Semi-Final on Thursday will pit Italy against Spain. The two sides have split the all-time series with each having notched 10 wins while drawing the remaining 11 games. Spain has had the edge lately though with a 4-1-2 record against the Azzurri since the turn of the millennium and La Roja have eliminated Italy in each of the past two European Championships (most recently with a 4-0 thumping in the 2012 Final). The Spanish have dominated everyone lately having not lost a game since a 2011 friendly against England in London and having not lost a competitive match since their opening game against Switzerland in the 2010 World Cup (which they of course went on to win anyway).
Italy will unfortunately be without their leading scorer and focal point in attack, Mario Balotelli. Balotelli will not even be in attendance as he has been sent back to Milan for treatment on his thigh. Balotelli’s club teammate Ignazio Abate will also be noticeably absent from the Milan lineup. With two key starters missing Italy will be reliant upon two players returning from injury and suspension; Andrea Pirlo and Daniele de Rossi. The midfield pair really pulled the strings sitting in front of the defense in Italy’s 4-2-3-1 during the first two games. In those two games De Rossi and Pirlo completed 246 passes averaging 85% and 90.3% passing accuracy, respectively. Each player has also added one of Italy’s 8 goals and Pirlo added an assist as well. De Rossi is also leading the Italians with 3.5 interceptions per game.
Vicente del Bosque’s side have (unsurprisingly) scored the most goals (15) thus far in the tournament. Spain will undoubtedly run a 4-3-3 dominating possession at the feet of some of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s brightest stars. The back line of Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Alvaro Arbeloa will provide cover for Iker Casillas. A Barcelona quartet of Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Pedro should also make the cut with the final two places less solidified as both Roberto Soldado and Cesc Fabregas were absent from Spain’s most recent training session. Though del Bosque often sent Spain out without a true striker in the past, expect Fernando Torres to start up top. The Chelsea hitman has taken full advantage of his opportunities scoring five goals and adding an assist in just 120 minutes of play (granted most of this was against Tahiti