Bonucci warns Italy that Spain are seeking revenge

MILAN • Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci expects a "more motivated" Spain to seek revenge for their early exit at Euro 2016 when the sides meet in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Turin today.

Italy host La Roja at Juventus Stadium in what is their first meeting since Spain's 2-0 last-16 defeat by the Azzurri at the Stade de France in June. That loss ended Spain's hopes of a record third consecutive European Championship crown.

Both teams have since undergone coaching changes, Giampiero Ventura replacing Antonio Conte at the Italy helm and Julen Lopetegui stepping in for Vicente del Bosque.

While Spain beat Liechtenstein 8-0 in their opening Group G qualifier in Leon last month, 10-man Italy had to battle to beat Israel 3-1 in Haifa. In his second competitive game in charge, Ventura is under pressure to deliver.

And Bonucci warned: "We're expecting a different Spain side with respect to the one we faced at the Euros. They will have fresh motivation, they'll be in a new state of mind and looking to avenge their Euro 2016 defeat. We have to step up a gear with respect to how we played against Israel."

Asked if Spain were favourites, he said: "Totally, yes. And if we're to upset predictions we'll have to play like we did at the Euros, with pace, commitment and by being clinical in front of goal."

Spain and Italy are expected to take maximum points from their remaining home and away fixtures against Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Israel and Albania. But, with only the group winners progressing automatically to the Finals in Russia, their direct encounters take on special importance.

Ventura is under no illusions as he prepares to face off against a coach who, he says, has given Spain fresh energy and conviction.

"They're the strongest opponents in the group," he said. "Since Lopetegui took over, they've changed the way they play, and their approach to games. He's given them an adrenaline boost, and conviction.

"It's a delicate game for us, an important test."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Bonucci warns Italy that Spain are seeking revenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe