Spain V Italy: Euro 2012 Group C Preview, Team News, Projected Lineups

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Spain V Italy: Euro 2012 Group C Preview, Team News, Projected Lineups
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

On June 10, Italy and Spain will contest what is likely one of the most anticipated group-stage openers in the history of the European Championships.

The last two World Cup champions will face off against each other with high stakes.  With two other tricky group opponents in Croatia and Ireland, defeat in this match could severely hamper the loser's chances of making it out of the group and into the knockout stages.

These are familiar foes who have been going in opposite directions over the last six years.  After Italy's World Cup triumph of 2006 the team declined, as their top players began to age and bad squad selection from former manager Marcello Lippi in his attempt to defend the title he won in Germany delayed the emergence of the country's next generation of players.

Spain, meanwhile, went from Europe's perennial underachievers to the best soccer team in the world, bar none.  They have won the last two major international tournaments, but their generation might be coming to an end.  Age and injury have sapped the Spaniards of some of their best players, and their core players from Barcelona and Real Madrid have played more games on average than any other in the world, creating a potentially fatal fatigue problem.

So what should we be watching for in this clash of the titans?  Let's find out.

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