Vicente del Bosque’s team are now bidding for a third consecutive victory and have to be considered as strong contenders to land the spoils in Poland and Ukraine, with the manager able to call on largely the same set of players that conquered all in South Africa.
The two notable absentees are Carlos Puyol and David Villa, the latter of whom’s goals have been instrumental in helping Spain over the line in 2008 and 2010. Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo are the trio of forwards looking to make a name for themselves.
The Spanish are warm favourites to claim three Group C points in their opener against the Azzurri, with odds of 4/5 (Paddy Power free bets) available about the holders and there are lots of reasons for expecting them to oblige. The squad is packed with quality players from Barcelona and Real Madrid, including Iker Casillas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso.
Italy’s squad is mainly comprised of players from Serie A, especially Juventus where Gianluigi Buffon will be between the sticks while Andrea Pirlo will try and make the Azzurri tick, although Cesare Prandelli has some thinking to do after witnessing his team lose 3-0 to Russia in a recent friendly match.
Italy will draw confidence from the fact that Switzerland beat Spain in the opening match of the World Cup and odds of 9/2 (Boylesports bookmaker) are available about an Italian win which would see their price on winning the tournament slashed across the board, with the Spanish once again having to scramble to qualify.
Mario Balotelli looks set to start in Sunday’s match and the Manchester City forward is clearly a talented player as well as being an enigma. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if Super Mario scores the first goal at odds of 9/1 and bet365 are also offering new and existing customers a free £50 In-Play bet on this match which is worth snapping up.
As for Spain, it is possible that Negredo will line up in this match at the expense of Torres and the Sevilla man has an impressive strike rate when he’s adorned the red shirt, with odds of 7/1 (Ladbrokes) about him scoring the first goal of the tournament.
Italy will undoubtedly be happy to walk off the pitch with a draw under their belts and Boylesports quote 11/4 that this game ends all square which will mean both teams are still favourites to qualify irrespective of what has happened between Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.
If Spain are to win the game, it is most likely they will oblige by a scoreline of 1-0 rather than anything too emphatic and the layers are wary of that happening to the extent that the best odds available is 5/1 (Ladbrokes).