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Spain vs Italy, Euro 2024: battles between the three best players and key encounters in the crucial European Championship match in Group B

Reimagined versions of Spain and Italy meet on Thursday in a highly anticipated Euro 2024 Group B encounter between the winners of three of the last four European championships.

Both sides have shown a different style of football in Germany than fans usually expect.

Spain beat Croatia 3-0 in their opener on Saturday, playing a faster, more direct approach than the possession-based ‘tiki-taka’ style that saw the country crowned European champions in 2008 and 2012 and World Cup winners in 2010.

Spalletti ditches the traditional Italian Catenaccio system and has implemented a more attack-oriented approach, which the country used to great effect, beating Albania 2-1 in the opening match.

READ FULL PREVIEW | New look Spain and Italy meet in the battle of playing styles

Here are the top three player matches that could influence the outcome of the biggest match of the Euro 2024 group stage.

RODRI (SPAIN) vs BARELLA (ITALY)

Rodri in action for Spain. | Photo credit: AFP

The midfield generals of both teams, Rodri and Nicolo Barella, will battle it out in the middle of the park in the match between Spain and Italy.

Although Barella plays a more progressive role in the Italian setup, Rodri will focus on limiting Barella’s runs and restricting his movement. The Italian also scored from outside the penalty area when the ball came to him, so Rodri will be prepared not to give Barella the space to do so.

While Rodri’s role keeps him deep, his distribution game is vital for Spain. If Barella fails to close the gaps and allow Rodri to flow freely through the middle, Italy will face dangerous attacks from all sides in the final third.

CUCURELLA (SPAIN) vs CHIESA (ITALY)

The Italian Federico Chiesa. | Photo credit: AP

Federico Chiesa, Italy’s man of the match from last match and arguably their best player, will be Spain’s most dangerous thorn in their side. His dribbling, build-up play and deadly finishing make him Italy’s main man in the attacking ranks, as he is incredible when allowed to roam freely on his right flank.

Spanish left-back Marc Cucurella will have a hard time reading Chiesa’s movements and controlling his play both on and off the ball. If Chiesa switches wings and plays on the left, the same responsibility will fall on the shoulders of veteran Dani Carvajal. If Chiesa manages to beat Spain’s full-backs on the flanks time and time again, Italy will unlock a plethora of options to attack the goal.

MORATA (SPAIN) VERSUS BASTONI (ITALY)

The Spaniard Álvaro Morata. | Photo credit: AP

Alvaro Morata is a prolific goalscorer, as the striker proved in Spain’s opening match by scoring the first goal against Croatia.

He has scored 36 goals in 74 games for Spain and is leading his country as captain this time. Spain like to play threaded passes in the final third for Morata to chase down, but it could be difficult to do that against the Azzurri with Bastoni in the lead.

Bastoni is expected to attack and press Morata, which could see Morata struggle to find space and time to make attempts on goal. If Morata manages to shake Bastoni off his heels, Spain will have a better chance of converting the chances created.

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