The 2024 European Championship round of 16 will be within touching distance for the Italy Men’s National Team when they walk out at the Veltins Arena on Thursday night, but they have the small matter of three-time European champions Spain to get the better of.

If Luciano Spalletti’s side can defeat La Roja, they will take control of Group B and move top outright, but despite the Azzurri beating Albania 2-1 in their opening game, the coach is considering a change of approach when the two sides meet.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the former Napoli boss is considering changes to both the lineup and tactics, but what options are available to Spalletti?

Could Italy be less attacking against this new-look Spain?

After years of dominating the opposition through possession, the 2022 World Cup exit to Morocco on penalties after attempting to pass the North Africans into submission but managing just one shot on target appears to have been something of a turning point for Spain.

Against Croatia, it was the first time in 136 international fixtures that La Roja recorded less possession than their opponents, yet they secured a 3-0 win through swift counterattacks, particularly down the flanks with Lamine Yamal and Neco Williams shining.

Croatia had plenty of chances to win the game themselves, had they been as clinical in front of goal.

The Italy Men’s National Team starting XI line up ahead of their 2024 European Championship opener against Albania. (@Azzurri)

Italy must be wary of Spain coach Luis de la Fuente taking a counterattacking approach once more, and they will not be as negative Albania. But remember that although a draw is probably enough to progress to the knockouts, playing for one point could leave them at risk of leaving with none, and seeing Spain move onto six.

Scamacca starting would counter Morata threat

At Euro 2020, former Juventus striker Alvaro Morata slipped past defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini to equalise in the semi-final, yet his mobility when drifting into wide areas is almost as crucial and through that role provides a vital function within the current Spanish side.

However, while Morata displays more sleekness moving across the pitch, Spalletti is likely to need the physicality of Gianluca Scamacca against a potentially deep-lying Spain defence and the Atalanta striker’s technical ability and ingenuity could open the door for the forward bursts of Davide Frattesi.

Scamacca could also unleash a trademark long-range rocket that could steal all three points for the Azzurri.

Gianluca Scamacca in action for the Italy Men’s National Team. (@Azzurri)

Could the Azzurri double up on Rodri?

Regardless of what system Spain play, defensive midfielder Rodri will be crucial to any success they have, with almost everything going through the Manchester City man at the base of midfield, quickly turning the ball onto playmakers like Fabian Ruiz and Pedri.

While Jorginho plays a similar role for Italy, his defensive attributes are a shadow of those of his Spanish counterpart, so the Azzurri may have to combat this by dropping Frattesi into a slightly deeper role and have the Inter man double-up on Rodri with clubmate Nicolo Barella. AS Roma’s Bryan Cristante could be called upon for specialist midfield support.

Italy need more from Chiesa on the right

After an impressive game against Albania, Juventus attacker Federico Chiesa will be important once more against Spain. His speed and dribbling could force full-back Jordi Alba to retreat closer to his own goal and reduce the attacking combinations with Nico Williams.

However, this could be an area where the Azzurri are also likely to suffer, with 16-year-old talent Lamine Yamal expected to stretch the defensive abilities of Federico Dimarco. He will also limit Italy‘s threat going forward, and the Inter wing-back will need to be mindful of the Barcelona youngster cutting inside, as he did for the third Spain goal against Croatia.

Italy Men’s National Team defender Alessandro Bastoni at Euro 2024. [@Azzurri]

Is Cristante set to start against Spain?

With Albania playing one striker, central defenders Alessandro Bastoni and Riccardo Calafiori were afforded plenty of time and space to advance with the ball in the opening game, but that will not happen against Spain. Instead, Gianluca Mancini could replace Calafiori should Spalletti take a more defensive strategy, having appeared in a three-man backline during a public training session.

That practice match also featured Bryan Cristante alongside Jorginho, but the formation consisting of 12 players made it difficult to take any certainty from the set-up. If one man is to drop out in place of the Roma midfielder, it will not be Barella, who was so important against Albania, so Frattesi or Lorenzo Pellegrini will be sacrificed if that is the route Spalletti goes down.