The European Championships has it’s final four participants and they have set up two huge semi-final clashes at Wembley Stadium.
Italy, Spain, England and Denmark have seen off competition from 20 other teams to make it to this stage of the tournament and now must go head-to-head to make it to the final on Sunday night.
First up is Italy vs Spain on Tuesday night and here’s everything you need to know about the fixture and then my prediction to go with it.
Last time out:
The quarter-final stage threw up some truly brilliant games of football, filled with high drama and quality across the board.
Italy took on world number one ranked Belgium in their last eight clash and came out on top in a highly entertaining encounter. Roberto Mancini’s side played fast-paced, intense pressing football and were able to keep the ball for much of the game.
They scored two finely worked goals and other than a slightly late challenge that allowed Romelu Lukaku to score a penalty, they were imperious defensively in their traditional way to earn a 2-1 win inside 90 minutes.
Spain on the other hand found themselves up against Switzerland and while they dominated the ball for large portions of the game they once again struggled to turn chances into goals.
They took the lead early on through Denis Zakaria’s own goal and while they missed several chances again, it allowed the Swiss to get back into the game following an error from Pau Torres for Xherdan Shaqiri to slot home.
The game was open and back and forth from that point on which led to a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of action, which they came out on top of 3-2 after five penalties each.
Italy unfortunately lost their player of the tournament so far in Leonardo Spinazzola against Belgium when he suffered a ruptured achilles tendon in the second half, ruling him out for the rest of 2021.
His absence means we should see the arrival of Emerson Palmieri of Chelsea into the starting lineup at left-back, meaning a natural left-footer and just as much attacking impetus. Marco Verratti’s form since returning from injury has been excellent so he should continue to start ahead of Manuel Locatelli while Federico Chiesa is likely to keep his place out wide ahead of Domenico Berardi.
Spain on the other hand have no new injury worries ahead of the semi-final clash, but they are likely to make changes after being taken to extra-time in both of their knockout ties so far.
The midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Koke and Pedri will likely remain intact but Eric Garcia could return to centre-back ahead of Pau Torres while Jose Gaya could take the place of Jordi Alba, although that is less likely.
In attack however Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres are pushing for starts ahead of Pablo Sarabia and Gerard Moreno, while Adama Traore and Mikel Oyarzabal are yet to start any games at this tournament.
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Jorginho, Barella, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne
Spain: Simon; Azpilicueta, Laporte, Garcia, Alba; Busquets, Koke, Pedri; Torres, Morata, Olmo
This game is set up to be absolutely brilliant. Two teams who work relentlessly when out of possession to win it back and look to dominate the ball.
Normally you’d expect a battle for ball possession to be won by the Spanish, but this Italy squad is incredibly gifted on the ball and for my money they’re more likely to have the edge there. They’re also better defensively by a country mile, but the pace and energy of the Spanish side could cause them some issues.
Overall though, this is Italy’s tie (and tournament) to lose. They’re the better team overall, playing the better football currently and will have fitness and momentum on their side to reach the final.
Italy 2-1 Spain