Julen Lopetegui faces his first test in Turin

Julen Lopetegui will face his first test as Spain manager on Thursday evening in Turin, when his side plays Italy in a World Cup qualifier. To date, Italy are the side Spain have played the most often in our history. And they are also one of the few with whom we have a negative balance. Italy knocked us out of the last European Championship, with their formula of three central defenders, which caused so much disconcertion in the mind of Vicente del Bosque at the last World Cup in losing to Chile and Holland. Italy, the country that gave the world latin, roads and Roman Law, is also a country that treats football like war and war like a game.

A good friend told me, four years ago, that the World Cup starts when Italy play. That day, when the anthem sounds and the players listen attentively in their signature blue strips, something really does start every four years. And it is still the case even though in recent times Serie A has lost a little of previous sex appeal. So much attention has been paid to detail that the Italian championship has become lost in its own short cuts. But at international level Italy possess such a deep well of tactical culture that seeps into every one of its players, coupled with a well-known extra competitiveness gene.

Tonight, Lopetegui’s Spain will face all of that, although in my opinion they are a well-structured side. The leftovers from the great Spain side (Ramos, Piqué, Busquets, Iniesta, Silva… not bad leftovers) are helping to build a new project in which the only true novelty is the presence of Sevilla’s Vitolo. It’s a project that bodes well for the future. On that path to the destination the side needs to reach, this game will provide a good marker. Turin, Italy, three centre backs… it’s a hurdle for Lopetegui to jump and one that he will attempt with Diego Costa in the striker’s role with Iniesta and Silva to drive the team forward. I am confident it will all come good.