The two most recent World Cup champions will square off in an international friendly showdown on Wednesday in Madrid as Spain and Italy each look to pick up a win and momentum ahead of June's 2014 World Cup.
The matchup will pit the two European rivals against one another for the first time since last summer's thrilling FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal, which Spain won in a dramatic penalty shootout.
But despite Spain's success in Brazil last June, both sides will be looking to make a statement on Wednesday.
La Roja fell to South Africa in a friendly their last time out in late 2013, but will be re-energized taking on a fellow powerhouse inside the Spanish capital. Not to mention Spain manager Vicente del Bosque will likely be far less hesitant to play his stars.
On the other hand, Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri are coming off back-to-back friendly draws against Nigeria and Germany since qualifying for Brazil. However, the 2006 World Cup champions will be short-handed as they prepare to head into enemy territory without Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know ahead of kickoff.
Date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Start Time: 4 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. GMT
Where: Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid, Spain
TV: ESPN2 (U.S.), Sky Sports 1 (U.K.)
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Top Storyline: Del Bosque Calls On Diego Costa
Del Bosque made headlines this past weekend after announcing that Brazilian-born forward Diego Costa would be called up for Wednesday's clash with Italy, closing the door on veteran strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres in the process.
However, the successful head coach was quick to point out that everyone will have a chance to make the 23-man World Cup roster in the coming months, per Sports Illustrated:
This list is exclusively for the game against Italy. There are three months left of competition, and many things can happen to convince us to bring other players. We don't close the door to anything.
The 25-year-old Costa has been playing at an elite level over the past two seasons with Atletico Madrid, closing in on 50 goals since the start of 2012-13.
First picture of Diego Costa in a Spain shirt emerges. He looks confused. pic.twitter.com/4M21iQGkDr— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) March 3, 2014
Keep in mind that Costa has yet to make an appearance for the Spanish national team, earning just two appearances for his native Brazil in March 2013. Unsurprisingly, Costa has faced criticism for his decision to suit up for Spain instead of Brazil. But if he can find a way to impact Wednesday's clash with Italy, he could be on his way to a successful international career with La Roja.
Costa clearly has all the physical tools to thrive on the international level. Now, it's just a matter of him putting everything together at the right time and convincing del Bosque that he'd be an asset in Brazil this summer.
Which side will prevail?
Considering that Italy will be on the road and without two key players, it's likely that Spain will come away with a comfortable victory on Wednesday.
Although the reigning World Cup and European champions will be looking to tinker with various lineups and positions in the lead-up to June's World Cup, Spain boasts an elite midfield unit that's sure to pick apart Italy and create chances over the course of 90 minutes.
Plus, with the crowd urging them on, you can anticipate an inspired brand of football from La Roja.
Expect a competitive game between these two World Cup contenders on Wednesday, but also watch for Spain to come away with the win on their home soil.
Spain 2, Italy 0
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