With less than three months left before the start of the European Championships in France, Italy host Spain in an international friendly on Thursday, 24 March at the home of Udinese football club, Stadio Friuli. This may be the last chance for a few fringe players to impress before the tournament and everyone will be desperate to give their best in a bid to make the squad for the summer event.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 7:45pm GMT. The game will be telecast live on ESPN 2 in the US. You can follow the game live in the UK on the BBC website.
All eyes will be on Antonio Conte, who has confirmed that he will be leaving his post as the manager of the Italy national team to return to club football. Chelsea are rumoured to be favourites for his signature but there has been no confirmation from either party regarding the move. He had a three-year stint with Juventus before moving to Italy where he has the unenviable task of matching his predecessor's achievement in the last iteration of the tournament in 2012 – Italy entered the finals, only to be beaten by the side they are set to face later today.
Italy have been handed the most difficult group in the draw, with number one ranked Belgium, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. A commanding performance here would go a long way in alleviating the nerves and proving that Conte's men are well-equipped to take on anyone on the world stage.
Meanwhile, Spain are no longer the dominant force they once were, having been ignominiously eliminated from the group stages of the World Cup in 2014. Vincente del Bosque's men are still a formidable force but need to get back into the groove before the tournament, having had to see through a transition after the retirement of David Villa and Xavi Hernandez.
Their defence has been extremely resilient in the qualifiers for the European Championships. They lost their opening game against Slovenia but remained unbeaten in the following eight, thus topping their group. Spain are currently third in the FIFA rankings and have been pitted against Croatia, Turkey and the Czech Republic in the group stages of Euro 2016.
What Managers Say
Antonio Conte: "Absolutely nothing has changed for the squad. For me and the boys, Euro 2016 is a unique opportunity, and I feel a great responsibility. In June, we will all feel that Italy is blowing behind us to push forwards, and this should give us tremendous force to bridge the gap with some of the teams that are now ahead of us."
Vincent del Bosque: "This Italy side reminds me of Conte's Juventus in its ability to adapt and mutate. They can press, but also come back, wait and go on the counter at great pace with just a few quick passes. The defensive structure is that of his Juve and therefore at the foundation of everything. In all honesty, I don't see big differences from Cesare Prandelli's Italy either. Italy have fallen down the rankings, but the Nazionale maintained the essence of Italian football. Last week I saw Juve in Munich and I expect an Italy similar to that model: pressing, physical effort, no problem in leaving the initiative to the opposition and then hurting them on the counter. True, Italy have not found a world-class centre-forward, but they remain a very difficult side to face."
Betting Odds (Betfair)
- Italy Win: 3.45
- Draw: 3.25
- Spain Win: 2.48
Possible XI: Buffon; Darmian, Rugani, Bonucci, Antonelli; El Shaarawy, Motta, Verratti, Candreva; Immobile, Zaza
Possible XI: Casillas; Gaspar, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Thiago, Roberto; Fabregas; Isco, Iniesta; Morata