The current world champions will host Cesare Prandelli’s side at the home of the Los Rojiblancos in Madrid on Wednesday.
Vicente Del Bosque leads Spain into this tie having lost just twice in his last 16 games since February 2013. The 1-0 loss against South Africa in November and defeat to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in June 2013 have been overshadowed by the 12 games Spain have won since the beginning of last year.
Coach Del Bosque has included in-form Athletico Madrid striker Diego Costa in his squad, a first appearance in a Spanish national shirt beckons for the forward, who opted against representing his native country Brazil. Costa who has scored 27 goals in 36 club appearances this season will join a squad of experienced players spearheaded by the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandes and Xabi Alonso, all of whom have surpassed 100 international caps.
Youngsters Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich) and Koke (Athletico Madrid) have been included in a squad and will fight for a place in the Spanish midfield that boasts of the Barcelona quartet of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquets along with Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) and David Silva (Man City). There is no room for Manchester United’s new £37.5M signing Juan Mata and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has also been over-looked having scored only 9 goals in 28 appearances for The Blues this season.
Italy will head to Madrid on Wednesday on the back of four consecutive draws. Coach Prandelli will also be without AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli who suffered a shoulder injury in a Champions League match and will not have the option of playing his central midfield stalwart Danielle De Rossi, who has been dropped because of an ethics violation which included the AS Roma talisman being punished for hitting FC Internazionale’s Mauro Icardi in a Serie A game this season.
Prandelli has included Torino forward Ciro Immobile as a replacement for the injured Balotelli and has also included Parma defender Gabriel Paletta, an Argentinian born central defender who has gained Italian citizenship. The 24 year old Immobile has featured in the Serie A top goal scoring charts often this season and is currently tied at third with 13 Serie A goals this year.
Italy who were one of the first European countries to qualify for the 2014 World Cup have drawn their last four games. Injuries to the striking duo of Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi have forced Prandelli to shuffle his squad and seen the inclusion of young Roma striker Mattia Destro as well as out of favour Southampton loanee Dani Osvaldo.
Spain will be aiming to consolidate on a strong year the nation has had and march on to the World Cup this summer with maximum confidence. Italy meanwhile have had no hiccups whilst qualifying for the tournament but Cesare Prandelli will have to exercise the depth of his squad against the world champions with key players being unavailable to play this week.
KICK OFF: Wednesday 9pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS
Spain 0 Italy 0, FIFA Confederations Cup, June 2013
Spain 4 (Silva, Alba, Torres, Mata) Italy 0, UEFA Euro, July 2012
Spain 1 (Fabregas) Italy 1 (Di Natale), UEFA Euro, June 2012
Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon are the only two players in this Italian side who have more than 100 international caps.
In 14 past meetings, Spain have won 3, Italy have 4 and the two nations have drawn on 7 occasions.
Both Italy and Spain remained unbeaten in their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.
Spain to win: 1.44
Italy to win: 7.5