Italy vs Croatia (1700 GMT)
It has been dubbed the battle of second place, but the Italians picking up a draw against reigning champions Spain, it is all to play for in Group B.
Croatia attacked from the off against Ireland, but I don’t expect them to do the same today, as they will be very cautious that an Italian win would put them in the box-seat to qualify.
De Rossi will have to remain as a makeshift CB as Barzagli is still not fit, and I think the Azzurri will miss his tenacity in midfield against the likes of Modric for Croatia.
The Croatians are the tallest team at Euro 2012, and im expecting them to use that height advantage against Italy, who are the third smallest team, and further warning is that Croatia scored nearly half their goals from headers in qualifying.
I expect Di Natale to start ahead of Balotelli, who looked unconfident at best against Spain last week. This should be an exciting game, and the neutral will hope for an early goal to really open up the contest.
I am backing Italy to scrape through this game, but a score draw could be great value also.
Italy @ 13/10
Over 3.5 goals @ 10/3
Pirlo FGS @ 14/1
Italy to win by 1 goal @ 11/4
Prediction: Italy 2 (Pirlo, Di Natale) Croatia 1 (Jelavic)
Spain vs Ireland (1945 GMT)
Ireland really have to go for broke here today, as the loss to Croatia in the first game was crucial, which many regarded the easiest fixture of the three.
Del Bosque got criticism for his 4-6-0 formation, but with the midfielders than Spain have at their disposal, I thought it was a great selection, and they didn’t have any problems creating chances, as theoretically any of the 6 could push forward into an attacking role throughout the game.
If Cesc Fabregas is fit, expect the same formation, although if not, Negredo, Torres, and Llorente are on standby to fill in the forward role for the reigning World and European Champions.
Walters may start ahead of Doyle, to operate more of a hold-up striker, and give the Irish much needed rest throughout the game.
The Irish have all the belief, but I think they will be easily undone by a Spain outfit that are eager to leave their mark on the tournament, especially with the Germans trouncing the ‘Group of Death’ so far.
The Irish are as high as 12/1 in some places, which shows the task ahead of them. It will not be impossible, but as close to it as it can be im afraid.
Spain (-2) @ 15/8
Spain HT/FT @ 8/11
Iniesta FGS @ 6/1
4-1 Spain @ 20/1
Prediction: Spain 4 (Negredo, Iniesta 2, Silva) Ireland 1 (Keane)
By Brad Smith
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