The 2023 UEFA Nations League has reached the final stages. We look ahead to this semi-final at De Grolsch Veste, Enschede with our Spain vs Italy prediction and preview.
Spain vs Italy Stats: Quick Hits
- Spain are the favourites to progress to the UEFA Nations League final with the Opta Supercomputer before kick-off (42.2%).
- Italy were knocked out of the 2021 UEFA Nations League by Spain at the semi-final stage.
- Luis de la Fuente’s last match as boss – only his second in charge of Spain – saw them suffer a shock 2-0 defeat to Scotland.
Spain and Italy meet in Enschede on Thursday night to battle it out for a place in the UEFA Nations League final.
This is a new era for Spain, with Luis de la Fuente just three months into his reign as boss after stepping up from the Under-21s to replace Luis Enrique. He began his spell with a fine 3-0 win at home to Norway in their opening European Championship qualifier, but any positivity quickly diminished after a shock 2-0 defeat in Scotland three days later.
The squad for this match contains a good mix of youth (Gavi, Ansu Fati, Yeremy Pino) and experience (Álvaro Morata, Jordi Alba, Jesús Navas). But with the retirement of Sergio Busquets, and Barcelona stars Ferran Torres and Pedri missing, it’s still a period of change.
Spain made it to the UNL Finals this summer after winning Group A2 ahead of Portugal, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini failed to get his nation to the 2022 World Cup but did see the Azzurri impress in the UEFA Nations League group stage. They successfully navigated a section that also included England, Germany and Hungary to reach the Finals in the Netherlands.
Nevertheless, they didn’t begin their European Championship qualifying campaign positively, suffering a 2-1 home defeat to England in Naples. However, with two teams qualifying for Euro 2024 from each group, Italy will still be expected to make it through – the 2-0 win over Malta in their second match, at least got them on the board.
Spain vs Italy Head-to-Head
This will be the 40th international meeting between Spain and Italy, with La Roja just leading the head-to-head with 12 wins to Italy’s 11 (16 draws).
Italy are winless in their last four games against Spain (D2 L2) and have won just one of their last 10 meetings (W1 D5 L4 – excluding shootouts). Interestingly, with this game being a straight knockout, three of their last 12 contests have ended with penalties. Spain have won two of those, but the single shootout they lost came in another semi-final tie, at Euro 2020.
The last meeting between these two nations came in the 2021 UEFA Nations League at the same stage. Spain won that semi-final 2-1 thanks to two goals from Ferran Torres, with Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini scoring a late consolation. Spain went on to lose the final to France, while Italy defeated Belgium in the third-place play-off.
That 2021 Spain UNL win ended Italy’s then-world record run of 37 game unbeaten in all competitions.
Spain: Álvaro Morata
Spain captain Álvaro Morata will be looking to follow up a decent domestic season with Atlético Madrid by adding to his Spanish national team goal tally this summer.
Morata’s haul of 13 La Liga goals in 2022-23 was his biggest tally across a single league season since 2016-17 (15) at Real Madrid, while he ended 2022 with seven goals in 11 international appearances across the year – he’s never scored more in a calendar year for his country.
He’s now scored 30 times for the senior Spanish side overall, putting him fifth in La Roja’s all-time standings. Still only 30 and with several years left to improve that tally, there’s every chance he could overtake both Fernando Torres (38) and David Silva (35) in the near future, too. With those goals coming across just 62 appearances, Morata has a better goals-per-game average (0.48) than Spain legend Raúl (0.43) and only lower than all-time top scorer David Villa’s 0.60 among the top five scorers for the Spanish national team.
Italy: Nicolò Barella
Nicolò Barella is integral to any hopes Italy have of advancing to the UEFA Nations League final with a victory over Spain.
The Inter Milan midfielder hasn’t had a long break following the domestic season, with him playing the UEFA Champions League final defeat to Manchester City on Saturday night, but he’s expected to play in this match, such is his importance to Mancini.
Across the Serie A season, he was involved in the third-most shot-ending open play sequences. His 170 involvements were below only teammate Lautaro Martínez (181) and Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (193).
No Italian player across the top five European leagues in 2022-23 created more goalscoring chances in open play than Barella (53), while the Inter star also totalled the most secondary chances created in the league (41) – all reasons behind his inclusion in our Serie A Team of the Season.
Spain vs Italy Prediction
Spain are the favourites to progress to the UEFA Nations League final with the Opta supercomputer before kick-off. They are being given a 42.2% chance of winning the game inside 90 minutes, while Italy’s probability of victory is significantly lower at 28.0%. There’s over a one-in-four chance of these European giants battling it out and reaching extra time and potentially a penalty shootout (29.8%), however.
Spain vs Italy Squads
Spain: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Dani Carvajal, Robin Le Normand, Nacho, Martín Zubimendi, Mikel Merino, Álvaro Morata (captain), Fabián Ruiz, Gavi, Marco Asensio, Sergio Canales, Ansu Fati, David Raya, Aymeric Laporte, Yeremy Pino, Rodri, Fran García, Jordi Alba, Rodrigo, Joselu, Dani Olmo, Jesús Navas, Unai Simón.
Italy: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Federico Dimarco, Leonardo Spinazzola, Matteo Darmian, Marco Verratti, Davide Frattesi, Jorginho, Mateo Retegui, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolò Zaniolo, Alex Meret, Rafael Tolói, Federico Chiesa, Francesco Acerbi, Bryan Cristante, Ciro Immobile, Nicolò Barella, Leonardo Bonucci (captain), Wilfried Gnonto, Guglielmo Vicario, Giacomo Raspadori, Alessandro Bastoni.