Arbeloa expecting tough test
Spain defender Alvaro Arbeloa is not entirely sure which Italy side to expect on Thursday night - but he is certain the Azzurri will not roll over a second time.
The world champions meet Italy in a repeat of last year's European Championships final, in which an all-conquering Spain side brushed Cesare Prandelli's plucky team aside 4-0 in Kiev.
Italy's defensive problems have not disappeared entirely - Brazil raced to a 4-2 win in the final group game - but vibrant displays against Mexico and Japan have given Arbeloa and his colleagues food for thought. When asked which Italy would turn up in Fortaleza, he told Marca: "I don't know. I don't think they will be the same side we faced in the final of the Euros, though."
He added: "They were a bit more carefree and wanted more of the ball so that was better for us."
The Real Madrid full-back agreed that Italy no longer bank on a rigid defensive structure to grind out results, rather basing their game around a fluid attacking trident orchestrated by playmaker Andrea Pirlo.
"It's not the Italy team that used 'catenaccio', where seven or eight players piled back into the defence," Arbeloa added. "This Italy side is full of technically gifted players, with Pirlo there to bend the team to his will. This is indeed a different Italy side, but all that matters is that we maintain our own style of play."
Italy, meanwhile, are without Mario Balotelli after the striker flew back to Milan with a leg injury. His AC Milan team-mate, full-back Ignazio Abate, and Paris St Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu are also doubtful to feature but Pirlo should return after missing the Brazil game.
Claudio Marchisio would otherwise continue in his place and the Juventus midfielder reminded his colleagues of their convincing display against Spain at the beginning of last year's Euros.
He told figc.it: "We have to make sure we keep it tight, like we did in that game. We put the world champions in a lot of difficulty on that occasion. We messed up in the final but that can only help us to avoid making similar mistakes this time round."
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