Spain (+156) at Italy (+197), Draw (+199)
We get a lot of mismatches in the European World Cup qualifiers. Thursdays epic tilt between Italy and Spain isn’t one of them. The two superpowers will clash at Juventus Stadium in Turin tomorrow (2:45 PM Eastern) in a battle for top spot in the group.
Both teams are 1-0 after their first fixture. Spain swept aside Liechtenstein 8-0 (what was that I was saying about mismatches?) while Italy easily handled Israel (3-1 away).
Spain now face their first road test of qualification, and it will be the hardest one on the slate. They were able to go 4-0 in away matches in the 2014 qualifiers, holding their opponents scoreless. That ran their streak to nine straight road wins in WC qualifiers. (They haven’t lost since falling 1-0 to Denmark all the way back in 1993.)
But tomorrow they’ll be facing an Italian team that just ousted them from the Euro in the Round of 16. Italy are under new management now that Antonio Conte is leading Chelsea. Gian Piero Ventura got his competitive tenure off to a good start with the 3-1 win over Israel, but he also saw his team fall 3-1 in a friendly to France in his first match on the bench.
Spain, meanwhile, bounced back from their disappointing Euro with a 2-0 win over Belgium in their most recent tune-up.
The last five head-to-head between Spain and Italy have been pretty even, with Spain holding a 2-2-1 edge. La Roja are starting to find their footing with their younger crop of stars, and I’ll bank on them to play conservatively, keep possession, and leave Italy with a point.
Pick: Draw (+199)
Photo credit: Arvedui89 [CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.