Italy Captain Gianluigi Buffon has warned his team to be cautious of former team-mate and golden boot leader Alvaro Morata against Spain tonight.
Morata scored three goals in the group stages against Turkey and Croatia to book La Roja their place in the round of 16 against traditional rivals Italy.
Ironically enough, it was Buffon who played the father figure role for the young 23 year old during the early stages of his career at Juventus.
The Juventus legend spoke about the motivating words he gave to the young star to help him with his psychological battle.
“It was at the start of the campaign, just like all young players when they go through a tough time they tend to get a bit down, look for excuses and get down in the dumps and feel sorry for themselves,” said Buffon.
“I said to him once he stopped feeling sorry for himself that he could once again become a match-winner. He’s a guy that’s willing to take a step back and look at himself as well.”
“Alvaro Morata has the gift only the top players have which is he always stars and often scores in the most important matches.”
“Clearly Spain aren’t only Alvaro Morata however he is the focal point of the attack and based on the goals he’s scoring he definetly is their main threat.”
Italy haven’t tasted success against Spain at a major tournament in 22 years. The last time the Azzurri knocked off the European Champions was in Boston at the 1994 World Cup in USA. The memory of Roberto Baggio’s last minute goal fades far into the dirstance for Italian fans, after multiple heartbreaks in the last decade.
Spain defeated Italy on penalties in the Quarter Final of the the European Championships in 2008, before going on to win the tournament.
History repeated itself four years later after Spain thrashed an exhausted Italian side 4-0 in the 2012 Euro Final.
Italy manager Antonio Conte believes the Italians will need to put on a masterclass to knock off the current back to back European Champions.
“We have worked hard and prepared for the fixture. There is no tomorrow for one of the two sides. That’s why it’s very important to see what the outcome is on the field,” said Conte.
Spain will start with an unchanged lineup for the fourth consecutive game, whereas De Sciglio will replace injured midfielder Antonio Candrev