Spain raring to deliver another blow on Italy

Spain raring to deliver another blow on Italy

 Italy will hold no surprises for Spain when they meet in the Confederations Cup semifinals on Thursday, defender Sergio Ramos said in assessing their first meeting since the Spaniards dished out a 4-0 hammering to win Euro 2012.

The odds look heavily in Spain’s favour again. Unbeaten in their last 25 matches, Spain have only lost to Italy once in eight meetings since the 1994 World Cup finals, while Italy have also lost Mario Balotelli, their main attacking threat in this tournament.

He has returned home with a thigh injury, but Ramos said Spain still expected a tough test at the Estadio Castelnao on Thursday.

“We are playing for the final of a very important trophy with the dream of appearing in a great stadium like the Maracana,” Ramos, a member of the team that crushed Italy a year ago in Kiev to retain the European title, told reporters at a briefing in a beachside hotel on Tuesday.
“We don't expect any surprises, We know them perfectly well and we know that they will make it very difficult for us. They have the experience, a very competitive spirit and they always show it even if their results against us recently have not been that good.

“I think it will be far more difficult than in the European final. We cannot relax for a moment, we want to win this Confederations Cup on Sunday, it is very important to us.”

Fellow defender Jordi Alba, who has had a fine tournament and scored two excellent goals in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Nigeria which gave Spain their third successive win here added: “Last year in Kiev we played the perfect match against them, in every aspect of our play.

“They gave us a lot of room and I am not sure they will make that mistake again, but if we stick to our game-plan, which has brought us a lot of success recently, I think we will beat them again.”

Spain's preparations have been sullied by allegations made in the local media that a number of Spain players enjoyed a party with five girls after their opening 2-1 win over Uruguay on June 16.

The Spanish FA, in a strongly worded official statement, denied the allegations on Tuesday, while Ramos said if the story was written to destabilise the squad, it had not worked.
Ramos told reporters: “To put our reputation in doubt by inventing a story like this is very bad and I hope the law does what is merited.”

“It is in the hands of the police. Our consciences are clean, we are not here to talk about parties, we are here to play our game which has made us World Champions and Champions of Europe.”

Pirlo to return

Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo is set to return to Italy’s line-up for the semifinal clash.
Pirlo, who missed the Azzurri’s loss to Brazil on Saturday with a calf injury, trained freely with the rest of the squad on Tuesday.

The news was not so positive for Milan right-back Ignazio Abate, who was sent back to Italy with a shoulder injury joining  Mario Balotelli, who has also departed with a thigh problem. Abate is expected to be replaced in Cesare Prandell’s starting line-up by Napoli’s Christian Maggio while Bologna forward Alberto Gilardino is tipped to take Balotelli’s place.

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