FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Spain coach Vicente del Bosque knows what to expect in the Confederations Cup semifinal against Italy, a rematch of last year's European championship final in which Spain trounced Italy 4-0 to claim its second straight European title.

"Well, this happened over a year ago," Del Bosque said. "They've kept the same group — a good one. They've kept the same coach, and they will come after us."

Del Bosque used the word "revenge" several times to describe Italy's attitude going into Thursday's match against the World Cup winners in the tropical northeast of Brazil.

"For us, Italy is a challenge in front of us as we try to get to the final," Del Bosque added. "I imagine for Italy it's very important because the loss is fresh in their minds from the European final, and I am sure they are thinking of revenge."

Spain is healthy and unbeaten in 25 straight matches, but Italy isn't riding as high.

Forward Mario Balotelli — Italy most explosive player in the tournament — is out with a strained thigh.

A few other Italy players are also injured. Playmaker Andrea Pirlo is expected to return, and midfielder Riccardo Montolivo could be back following a head injury.

Defender Ignazio Abate is out for the tournament with a dislocated right shoulder.

Spain defender Gerard Pique suggested Italy may still have a bigger reputation than Spain. Italy, after all, has won four World Cups, and Spain has only won one.

"Italy is such a big team that you always want to beat them," Pique said. "We know how they play, how experienced they are, how they will try to win big games like this one. I believe this will be a very tough semifinal."

Spain defender Sergio Ramos said injuries or other problems are unlikely to distract Italy.

"It's been clear over the years — since the last Euro — that they (Italy) have this rivalry with us," Ramos said. "I have always said that records like this are made to be broken, so they (Italy) will have that in mind."

Ramos was asked if Spain might overlook Italy and think ahead to the final on Sunday at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium — possibly against Brazil. Brazil faces Uruguay in the other semifinal.

"We should not think of the final because it would show a lack of respect toward Italy," Ramos replied.

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Follow Stephen Wade at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

 

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