Germany v Italy: The key players ... and the key battles
THE Euro 2012 semi-final tonight will see Germany looking to avenge a 2006 World Cup semi-final defeat to Italy. Here we look at the individual battles that could determine who progresses in Warsaw.
MARIO BALOTELLI V MATS HUMMELS
Volatile striker Balotelli is an enigmatic talent who certainly possesses the skill to guide Italy to the final. He will have to employ all of his undoubted technical ability to gain the advantage against the impressive Hummels. The Dortmund defender is comfortable in possession but his strength and excellent reading of the game could be vital against Balotelli. Hummels will need to maintain his concentration to prevent a strong Italy side from penetrating the German defence. Germany will start the match as favourites to progress but Balotelli may just have the capability to fire Italy to victory.
ANDREA BARZAGLI V MARIO GOMEZ
Barzagli overcame a fitness scare to return for Italy in their final group game and in their quarter-final victory over England. He faces the daunting prospect of facing in-form Bayern Munich striker Gomez. The German forward produced matchwinning performances against Holland and Portugal in the group stage and will be itching to return to action after being rested in the quarter-final victory over Greece. Barzagli will have to be strong in the air to suppress Gomez' threat. Gomez has often been criticised in the past for not performing in important matches but so far has silenced his critics with three tournament goals.
ANDREA PIRLO V BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER
The 33-year-old Pirlo has lit up the tournament so far with his industrious performances from midfield. Arguably Italy's most important player his range of passing and ability to always find space on the pitch make him one of the finest players in world football. In Schweinsteiger Germany have their own pass master. He will be looking to overcome the disappointment of losing the Champions League final to Chelsea by guiding Germany to European Championship success. Schweinsteiger's ability to dictate the tempo of a game should allow the likes of Mezut Ozil and Lukas Podolski to attack the Italy defence.