Italy - Spain Preview: European giants looking to find winning formula ahead of Euro 2016

Who will come out on top in the clash between two of Europe's biggest teams?

Italy - Spain Preview: European giants looking to find winning formula ahead of Euro 2016
Sergio Ramos and Mario Balotelli tustle for the ball in a previous encounter (www.telegraph.co.uk)

With Euro 2016 on the horizon, two of Europe's big guns will meet at the Dacia Arena in Udine on Thursday evening, when Italy host Spain in an international friendly. 

The Italians are looking in good shape heading into this Summer's Euro's in France where they will come up against Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Sweden in what is looking a tough Group A. A victory in this match isn't essential but, if they could get a boost by beating one of Europe's best sides, it can only be a good thing for their confidence following their dismal showing at the 2014 World Cup which saw them crash out at the group stages following losses to Uruguay and Costa Rica

Italy under Antonio Conte are generally a side who are difficult to play against and are well set-up defensively with the Juventus centre-halves a big part of their defensive gameplan.

Antonio Conte will be in charge of Italy up to Euro 2016 (image via: bleacherreport)
Antonio Conte will be in charge of Italy up to Euro 2016 (image via: bleacherreport)

As for the Spanish, they have an abundance of high quality players to call upon and each time a squad is announced, there are some unlucky players who miss out. 

Just like the Italian's, Spain endured their struggles at the World Cup in Brazil and were also eliminated at the group stages which came as a huge disappointment for the nation as a whole. On their day Spain can beat anyone but, over the past few years they have found it tough to find levels of consistency, but have of late improved to lift themselves back up to number three in the world rankings coming into these matches.

Previous meeting

The last time that these two sides met was in March 2014 when Spain narrowly came out on top in Madrid winning 1-0.

The goal on that occasion came from Pedro, who is now at Chelsea having moved their last summer from Barcelona in a hope of getting some more minutes under his belt.

Pedro celebrates his goal against Italy in 2014
Pedro celebrates his goal against Italy in 2014 (image via: insidespanishfootball)

The game was a close one, which is something that regularly happens when these two meet, and was played out in front of a crowd of 35,000, marking both sides preparation for the 2014 World Cup. 

Spain have gained an edge over Italy in recent times, having won four of the pairs last six meetings with one draw and the solitary win for the Azzuri.

Recent Form

This is Italy's first match since the turn of the year so they have little form to talk of, yet in their previous six fixtures they have gained four victories, as well as a draw and a defeat. 

Their most recent fixtures came in the November-break when they faced Romania and Belgium. Against the Belgians they lost 3-1 despite taking a third-minute lead through Antonio Candreva, whilst they drew 2-2 against fellow-Euro 2016 qualifiers Romania thanks to goals from Claudio Marchisio and Manolo Gabbiadini

As for Spain, they are on a run of seven-straight victories, with their last defeat coming in March of 2015 at the hands of the Dutch. Since then, they have reeled off qualifying wins over Belarus, Slovakia, Macedonia, Luxembourg and the Ukraine

In their most recent friendly, they overcame England 2-0 in Alicante thanks to goals from Mario Gaspar and Santi Cazorla. You could argue that the opposition has not been the most challenging for Spain of recent times, but they are getting positive results, which they hope will continue against Italy, before they face Romania on Sunday, March 27th in Cluj