Spain and Italy are set to fight it out live on BBC1 this evening for the chance to face Brazil in the Confederations Cup final and Paul Robinson thinks the Spanish are too short to get the job done inside 90 minutes.
"Italy managed to negotiate what potentially looked like a tricky group on paper as not only were they drawn with Brazil, but also with a dangerous Mexico team who are very capable on their day."
The Spaniards eased through their group thanks to a hat-trick of comfortable wins in which they scored 15 goals and conceded just one - a late consolation against Uruguay. There was plenty of talk prior to this tournament that Spain were in decline but that was largely based on Barcelona and Real Madrid's performances in the Champions League.
The national side are top of their World Cup qualification group and haven't lost a competitive match since 2010. They have been defeated in a few friendlies though, including against tonight's opponents back in August 2011.
These two have a much more recent history to draw upon however as they faced each other twice in the Euros last summer. The spoils were shared in the group game before Spain romped to victory in the final. Vicente del Bosque's side outclassed the Italians in Kiev but Italy will have learnt plenty from that encounter and they have shown signs of improvement since.
Italy managed to negotiate what potentially looked like a tricky group on paper as not only were they drawn with Brazil, but also with a dangerous Mexico team who are very capable on their day. Cesare Prandelli's men beat them in their opening fixture though and after coming back from 2-0 down to beat Japan 4-3, they had already qualified for the knockout phase before putting in a creditable display in the 4-2 loss to Brazil.
Mario Balotelli will be absent through injury and that is a huge blow as the enigmatic striker has been in top form for club and country since his move from Manchester City. His Milan team mate Stephan El Shaarawy looks ready to be given his head in a major international match though and the Spanish defence can look vulnerable at times when they haven't got the ball.
Spain are the worthy favourites but their odds are quite cramped to get the job done inside 90 minutes. We already saw Uruguay push Brazil to the wire last night and I think we could be in for another close encounter. The Italians have to tighten up at the back, but they clearly have the pedigree to do so. All things considered, with Spain trading around the [1.43] mark, I have to make them my lay of the day.
Lay Spain v Italy @ [1.43]
2013 P/L (1pt each bet)
Wagered: 177 pts
Returned: 167.64 pts
P/L – 9.36 pts (after commission)
(2012 P/L: + 9.60 pts)