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Italy and Spain meet tonight in the Nations League semi-finals both Roberto Mancini and Luis Enrique trust their youngsters to get the job done. Both sides also met in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 but the Azzurri won over the Spaniards on penalties.

Both teams have been on top of their game for the last few months and much of the credit goes to the youngsters in their ranks who have filled in for their predecessors and have reached the level expected of them. Two such players from either side are Pedri and Manuel Locatelli who have been an integral part of their side’s system and will be battling for midfield dominance for years to come.



Both players blew up last season both for club and country and this season is a new chapter in their career. They have made their mark in the game, but the one more consistent with their performances will prevail in the long run. Although Pedri and Locatelli play in similar positions, they both have different strengths which complement well with their style of play.



Pedri has been sensational for Barcelona last season and his impeccable performances make it impossible to remove him from the starting lineup. He played 74 games for both club and county last season and on top of that, he went to the Olympics in Tokyo just weeks later the Euros and won a gold medal there as well. At just the age of 18, it seems like Pedri has cracked football.



Pedri’s job entails creating goal-scoring opportunities for deeper areas and the player does just that. He has created 2.26 goal scoring chances per 90 and his dribbling ability helps him carry the ball deep into enemy territory from the midfield. He makes 6.58 progressive carries per game on average and takes 3.15 touches in the box which is among the highest numbers in the league for a central midfielder.



Locatelli also is one of the best players Italy has to offer and his performances in Euro 2020 has surely made him a national hero. The tall versatile defensive midfielder is a deep-lying playmaker who is known for his strong passing game for both club and country. He makes 7.48 progressive passes and 1.73 touches inside the opponent’s box.

What makes Locatelli a great asset to have is his defensive prowess. He makes 2.60 tackles and 1.31 interceptions per 90 on average. He also tends to shift back into the backline and makes 2.21 clearances per 90 which is a pretty commendable figure.



Although Pedri recently got injured during a game for Barcelona, Luis Enrique has named him in the team sheet and the youngster will surely play in the game given the importance of the fixture. Both sides are going to go head-on against each other but the fans will also see Pedri and Locatelli have their own battle in the middle of the park.



The last time these 2 sides met in Euros, we saw an entertaining end to end football game which means most of the game will depend on who dominated the midfield area. Pedri isn’t that good while defending but his attacking prowess needs to be contained and that is where Locatelli comes in.

Pedri could prove very lethal if he is only given a tiny little space which is why Locatelli will have to make sure he boxes Pedri every time he receives the ball.



Spain has amazing positional play but Italy’s strong centre backs, Chellinin and Bonucci make them almost impenetrable through the middle. The Spaniards will push their wingers and full-backs ahead and Pedri will have to provide them long balls to chase to catch Italy off guard.

If Locatelli manages to stop Pedri from finding his teammates, their attack will amount to nothing and Itklay can score on the counter which they do so brilliantly. Although Pedri might be a better player than Locatelli, Spain are missing many important players due to injuries which is majorly why Locatelli is likely to get the better of the Catalan wonderkid.


Karthik Mudaliar
A Manchester City fan, who idolizes Guardiola. Never blue unlike the team he supports, you will always find him smiling. He spends his free time playing Fifa and watching anime on most days.

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