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Absent stars, key matches and question marks in the first Euro 2020 semi-final – Liverpool FC

Belgium-v-Italy-UEFA-Euro-2020-Quarter-final-3-1

Euro 2020 has reached the final stage and we have only three matches left. It has been a very pleasant few weeks – and it will be much better for a nation.

First up in the semifinals is Italy against Spain.

The Azzurri could have been the most impressive of all 24 nations that have reached these finals in terms of tactical balance, bench settings and attacking style.

But Spain may have grown into the tournament as it has gone, has a manager who knows how to win, and a younger, more rotated group – this should prove to be an exciting spectacle, even if one side is a clear favorite at kick-off.

Italy and Spain tournament points

  • Leonardo Spinazzola has been one of the players in the tournament from the left back, but he is out with a long-term injury and Roberto Mancini has a big call for who will replace him
  • Aymeric Laporte ‘became’ Spanish just before the tournament and has so far had a tough race with centerback partnerships erroneously and far from having gelled yet
  • Ciro Immobile drew anger from some in the quarterfinals, but he has been part of a fully functioning attack – five goals and two assists between the four players who have shown the most
  • Luis Enrique has cut and shifted his wide strikers – Sarabia and Ferran came in last time, but Dani Olmo pushes for a start. Mikel Oyarzabal has come in as a sub in all five games

Today’s inventory

  • Italy vs Spain, semi-final, BBC One at 20.00
  • Colombia vs Argentina, Copa America semifinal, BBC iPlayer at 2 (Tuesday)

Expectations for …

Italy. As mentioned, they have been the best team in the tournament so far, but it does not matter if they do not sign up once.

This may be the first game in the tournament where they do not dominate large possession lines, and the expectation would be that in these moments their defense is good enough, organized enough and well known enough to withstand the Spanish attack … except on the left – back , now.

Roberto Mancini has not lost a match with the national team since September 2018 – has only once drawn five times since then! – and he is approaching a deserved and incredible success, but there is simply no room for error at this stage.

Key match to watch

Sergio Busquets vs. Nicolo Barella.

The greatest defensive midfielder in modern history, now past his prime and bypassed by pace, but still able to elevate his game and protect the defense by his reading of the match and positional play and more than the weird cunning offense.

Spain, simply put, need him to be at his very best against the blue swarm in the middle of the park because the defense is not good enough.

Barella, on the other hand, is the most energetic and attack-minded component in the trio of Azzurri, who always want to get into the field, brilliant in carrying the ball and full of confidence after a victory in the title, a starting place with Italy and a brilliant quarter-final goal.

Selection dilemmas

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 02: Luis Enrique, head coach of Spain, reacts during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship quarter-final match between Switzerland and Spain at St.  Petersburg Stadium on July 2, 2021 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo - UEFA)

Emerson Palmieri is the second left-back for Italy, but if they want to repeat Spinazzola’s drive and right-footed approach to cutting around the field, perhaps the original starting right-back of the tournament – Alessandro Florenzi – will replace them.

Andre Belotti could come in for Immobile, but it seems unlikely – no other changes are expected unless there is damage.

For Spain, Luis Enrique could well replace Sarabia with Olmo again. Ferran Torres is likely to stay inside, but Gerardo Moreno or finally starting Oyarzabal are other options.

Pau Torres or Eric Garcia? That’s the big question in midfield – neither has impressed too much with Laporte, and it’s just the three central midfielders – and Alvaro Morata – who seem fixed points.

Reds in action

Thiago in the Spanish team again, but he is almost certain to be sub again.

Predictions

Italy to continue their violence and make the final.

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