How Spain Will Line Up Against Italy

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

How Spain Will Line Up Against Italy

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    Vicente del Bosque running the rule over his men.
    Vicente del Bosque running the rule over his men.Paul White/Associated Press

    Spain face Italy on Wednesday night and the Azzurri have a couple of scores to settle.

    The last two times these sides met, Spain knocked them out of the Confederations Cup on penalties and previous to that they beat them 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final. 

    This time around, at the Vicente Calderon stadium, nothing except pride is at stake. 

    Well, pride and possibly a place in the respective World Cup squads of these nations for the players.

    Obviously friendlies can be a little unpredictable, but these are the 11 men we think will start for La Roja against Italy.

Casillas Between the Sticks

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    Safe hands: Iker Casillas should start.
    Safe hands: Iker Casillas should start.Paul White/Associated Press

    Iker Casillas has been Spain's first-choice goalkeeper for many years and unless Vicente del Bosque deems him unfit to start against Italy, he is likely to keep his place.

    When asked who his first choice goalkeeper would be, the coach said, as per AS: "That hasn’t been decided. We’ll have to see what shape each player is in."

    Continuing to speak about Casillas, he added: "He’s playing well, and both Diego Lopez and Iker are dovetailing well and playing to their best level, like the rest of the team."

Azpilicueta and Alba as the Full-Backs

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    Big chance: Del Bosque wants to watch Cesar Azpilicueta.
    Big chance: Del Bosque wants to watch Cesar Azpilicueta.Sang Tan/Associated Press

    At right-back it seems a toss-up between Juanfran and Cesar Azpilicueta, although the Chelsea man could feature at left-back as he has done for his club.

    Many of the Spain supporters at the Calderon will be Atletico fans and they would love to see their man get a run out.

    But Del Bosque wants to judge the Blues defender in the flesh for himself.

    He said at a press conference, reported by AS: "We believe that Azpilicueta is doing very well at Chelsea and we’re going to get a close look at him. His versatility is also very beneficial to us."

    If Azpilicueta is selected as the right-back, it leaves Barcelona's Jordi Alba to play on the other side.

Napoli's Albiol and Bayern's Martinez as the Centre-Backs

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    Javi Martinez is set to play in defence.
    Javi Martinez is set to play in defence.Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

    Del Bosque wants to evaluate Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez at centre-back.

    Although his best position is in defensive midfield, the Spaniard has been deployed deeper by Pep Guardiola in the Bundesliga.

    At the same press conference, h/t AS, the Spain coach said: "Javi Martinez is playing as a central defender and we want to have a look at him.”

    Sergio Ramos has a slight knock, according to AS, so it looks like Raul Albiol will partner him.

Midfield Trio of Busquets, Alonso and Thiago

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    All systems go: Thiago Alcantara should play.
    All systems go: Thiago Alcantara should play.Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    According to Barcelona-based Sport, a Spanish language publication, Cesc Fabregas is a doubt for the game because of an injury he sustained against Almeria on Sunday night.

    The creative midfielder was substituted after 78 minutes for Andres Iniesta and is undertaking medical tests for a groin injury.

    Spain's team doctors are likely to decide it's not worth risking him in a friendly.

    The Catalan giants will probably be hoping that Xavi and Iniesta aren't used too much either as they chase Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

    Del Bosque spoke about Bayern's Thiago Alcantara, and he hinted that he was going to start.

    As per AS, Spain's boss said: "He’s playing very well for Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in Europe, and he’s a starter."

    Sergio Busquets is likely to anchor the midfield, and it's tricky to pick between Koke and Xabi Alonso for the other position.

    Perhaps Del Bosque will be swayed by the game's location to pick Atleti's youngster Koke in his own stadium, but Real Madrid's Alonso offers the balance the team needs and the coach will want to see how he and Thiago play together as well.

Costa Supported by Pedro and Silva

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    Converted: Diego Costa is set to play for Spain.
    Converted: Diego Costa is set to play for Spain.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Diego Costa is likely to make his Spain debut at his team's home stadium, the Vicente Calderon.

    The Atletico Madrid striker was Brazilian-born but has been nationalised by Spain and could lead the line for them in June.

    In support, Barcelona's Pedro seems the most likely and Manchester City's David Silva after that.

    The aforementioned Iniesta, Santi Cazorla, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas could also be in with good shouts, and it's hard to choose between them.

    A few of them should appear at some point, anyhow.