Old foes Italy and Spain are going through to the Euro 2020 semi-finals yet just one of them will have the opportunity to taste the Wembley atmosphere one more time by reaching Sunday's final.
Italy and Spain will meet at a fourth consecutive European Championship with the Azzurri winning their most recent tie – a 2-0 victory in the Euro 2016 last-16 – but the Spaniards can boast a memorable 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 Final.
The Azzurri, on the other hand, have won the last European Championship meeting between the teams, emerging victorious 2-0 at Stadio Olimpico in June 2016 in Vicente Del Bosque's last game in charge of Spain.
La Roja also knocked out the reigning World Cup champions Italy in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals when Luis Aragonés' side emerged victorious from a penalty shootout after a goalless draw at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna.
All in all, Julen Lopetegui's Spain earned a 3-0 win over Gian Piero Ventura's Italy at the Santiago Bernabeu in the sides' most recent meeting in September 2017 (a World Cup qualifier).
Italy's 2-0 Euro 2016 win over Spain at the Stade de France was the sixth match between the two South European nations at the European Championship finals, making it the tournament's most-played fixture.
Giorgio Chiellini's goal against Spain at Euro 2016 was the first goal that La Roja had conceded in the knockout stages of the Euros since they suffered a 2-1 defeat to France in the Euro 2000 quarter-finals. Of course, we must bear in mind that Spain failed to qualify for the Euro 2004 knockout stage.
Furthermore, Graziano Pelle's late goal sealed Italy's victory and Spain's first two-goal defeat in the European Championship finals since a 2-0 defeat to West Germany in the Euro 1988 group stage.
Italy Betting Preview
We're repeating it preview after preview but The Italian Renaissance continues. Roberto Mancini's Azzurri have now gone 32 games unbeaten and are just two wins away from winning the European Championship and equalling Spain's record winning streak at the international level.
Roberto Mancini's side have been arguably the best team at the tournament so far and their victory over Belgium – the world's top-ranked team right now – proves their comprehensive quality, if someone was still questioning it.
The Azzurri cruised through their group with three wins – all in Rome – and without conceding a goal but they were nowhere near as impressive in the last-16 clash against Austria at Wembley, needing extra time to claim a 2-1 win over their Alpine neighbours.
This outcome in Munich, though, was probably the best performance of their near-three-year unbeaten sequence – and the most meaningful too.
Becoming the first side to win 15 consecutive competitive European matches, The Azzurri continue to chalk up records as they just beat Belgium to book their spot in the Euro 2020-semi-finals. This was their 15th successive victory in a row in European competitions, including qualifying matches, the UEFA Nations League and EURO 2020 itself.
Italy have also won five European Championship games in a row, something previously achieved only by France (Euro 1984), the Netherlands (between Euro 1988 to Euro 1992), as well as the Czech Republic over Euro 2000 and 2004.
Furthermore, Roberto Mancini himself became only the second coach in the European Championships history to win each of his first five matches in the finals after France's Michel Hidalgo, who won all five of his matches at Euro 1984
But most impressively, they've achieved it by being very prolific in front of goal, scoring 11 goals at Euro 2020 – their highest-scoring competition since the triumphant 2006 World Cup when Marcello Lippi's Azzuri have scored 12 goals en route to the title.
Nicolo Barella produced another brilliant display but to be fair, it was arguably his best performance so far as the Inter Milan midfielder scored the first goal, provided the assist for Lorenzo Insigne's second goal and remarkably, completed more take-ons (three) against Belgium than the rest of his team-mates combined (two).
Moreover, fellow midfielder Jorginho misplaced just ONE single pass during Italy's quarter-final win against Belgium and we won't exaggerate if we dare to describe him as Mancini's midfield maestro.
Marco Verratti has been another player who had revitalized the Italian midfield against Belgium as the PSG ace impressed with his passing and ball-winning ability.
In fact, looking at the stats (and not only), all of Italy's midfielders were really impressive against Belgium and should they play another dominating performance against Spain, this could be the key to success.
Unfortunately, Leonardo Spinazzola – one of the tournament's standout performers – was forced off in the quarter-final against Belgium and the left-back could be sidelined for around six months as he suffered an Achilles tendon rupture.
We can say that Leonardo Spinazzola's absence is a huge blow to Roberto Mancini's game plan but he has no choice and Chelsea's Emerson will likely deputize at left-back, while influential skipper Giorgio Chiellini and fellow centre-back Leonardo Bonucci will be keen to build on their amazing and long-lasting partnership.
Upfront, Roberto Mancini decided to rotate his front three as Federico Chiesa started over Domenico Berardi and it remains to be seen whether Chiesa will keep his starting berth or Berardi will be recalled.
Ciro Immobile is yet to score in the knockout stage but the Lazio centre-forward will likely remain on the frontline.
Spain Betting Preview
La Roja survived another extra-time thriller and a penalty roller coaster in which they beat Switzerland 4-2 on aggregate (3-1 in the penalty shootout) to reach their first major semi-final since the victorious Euro 2012 campaign.
Some would even say that they were lucky not to face France in the quarters, but it is what it is and Spain are just one step away from a third European Championship final in four tournaments.
To be honest, Luis Enrique's side were not quite favored to succeed for various reasons, but they have made it to the semi-finals and are heading to Wembley with growing confidence.
Isco, who scored a brace in Spain's last match against Italy, is one of the Real Madrid stars who were omitted from Luis Enrique's selection, but Álvaro Morata, who scored the third goal, is expected to lead the line.
Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres and Alvaro Morata have been Spain's most prolific players at the Euros, each finding the target twice.
Pablo Sarabia, though, is very unlikely to start the semi-final against Italy, while Aymeric Laporte is also a doubt for the Iberian side. The former was subbed off at the break against Switzerland and there are reports that the PSG winger was diagnosed with a micro-lesion to the adductor.
If Sarabia is not fully fit to start, either Dani Olmo or Mikel Oyarzabal will start on the left-wing of Luis Enrique's 4-3-3 system.
This is a blow for Luis Enrique, because the 29-year-old attacker mad his own impact as he scored two goals at the Euros, against Slovakia and Croatia, as well as providing two more assists.
The Spanish squad returned to training at the Ciudad de Futbol at the weekend and in addition to Sarabia, the only other player to miss out was defender Aymeric Laporte, who worked in the gym. This is reportedly due to fatigue, as he is the only player to have played every single minute of Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign so far, which includes two games that went to extra time.
Luis Enrique is unlikely to make wholesale changes to his starting XI, with Pau Torres getting the nod ahead of Eric Garcia against Switzerland and the Villarreal centre-back may keep his spot alongside Aymeric Laporte, if the latter is also ready to feature.
Barcelona teenager Pedri has covered more ground than any other player at the Euros – 61.5 kms – and seems to be a sure starter alongside skipper Sergio Busquets and Koke in Spain's midfield trio.
Possible Starting Lineups of Italy and Spain
Italy: Gianluigi Donnarumma – Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Emerson – Marco Verratti, Jorginho, Nicolò Barella – Federico Chiesa, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne. (4-3-3)
Spain: Unai Simón – César Azpilicueta, Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba – Koke, Sergio Busquets, Pedri – Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo. (4-3-3)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Both sides have some old scores to settle and Italy (+150) are slight moneyline favorites over Spain (+205) with BetOnline.
Italy failed to impress against Austria but Roberto Mancini could be encouraged that his substitutes are also fired up and willing to embrace the opportunity if they are called to action. However, they have shown a different quality against Belgium – the one that seems to be their real face under Mancini.
Spain have scored more goals than any other side at Euro 2020 – with 12 – but 10 of them have come in the matches against Slovakia and Croatia, while their finishing has been an issue in the other three games and they'll need to be clinical against an Italy side that hasn't conceded from open play in 13 games.
However, La Roja's defending seems to be prone to errors and their attack will not always be able to outscore the opposition, which was the case in the round of 16 clash with Croatia. In fact, we all know that a good attack wins games but a good defense wins titles and based on their Euro 2020 campaigns so far, we are backing Italy to advance.