Euro 2012 Betting: Ramos and Balotelli to battle
Pique and Sergio Ramos won't enjoy facing Balotelli and I think the Italy striker could get another first half goal in the final.
Harry Redknapp is geared up for a brilliant end to Euro 2012, and while he is backing Italy's Mario Balotelli to find the net believes that in the end Spain should have too much class for their opponents.
At the start of the tournament I backed a Spain v Germany final, so for betting reasons I was disappointed to see Joachim Low's team lose on Thursday night.
Take nothing away from Italy - the way they stunned Germany with two first-half goals was terrific and we're now set up for a quality end to a thrilling three weeks.
On his day, Mario Balotelli is unstoppable. He scored two great goals in the semi-final and the second was fantastic. I've managed players who have had difficulties at other clubs, but if the talent is there and you know how to handle it you can get the best out of them. Paolo Di Canio and Emmanuel Adebayor had problems elsewhere before I worked with them but you have to take every player on his merits.
When Italy arrived at the tournament, Balotelli looked like he wanted to have an argument with his manager but now he's banging them in. You never know what you're going to get with Balotelli, but with three goals, and another match to play, he looks a shrewd punt to be Euros top goalscorer.
I'm also backing him to grab the first goal in the final.
At the outset I didn't have Italy down as potential champions. They were decent against Spain in their opener but they weren't convincing against either Croatia or Ireland. Since then, they've produced two great performances and reminded us that you can never write off the Azzurri.
Italy's strengths are their solidity and spirit. They're men, they've been around the block and you can see the camaraderie. Lots of communication, knuckle bumps and backslaps when a player puts himself on the line - as a manager that's the kind of thing you want to see. There's tremendous ability there too, and for his peerless passing I'd make Andrea Pirlo my player of the tournament. The nucleus of Italy's side is made up of Milan and Juventus players who are used to wining things.
Mind you, Spain know a thing or two about that. No team has ever won three consecutive international tournaments but they're good enough to do it. Critics call Spain boring but I disagree. They provide a master-class of keeping possession. The main difference between Spain and Barcelona is that the national team lack a Lionel Messi to finish moves. Personally, I'd play Fernando Torres in the final but I expect Vincent Del Bosque may go without a striker again.
Spain will flood the midfield and dominate possession. It will be fascinating to see who comes out on top: Andreas Iniesta or Pirlo. You won't be surprised to see both players in my team of the tournament.
Four consecutive clean sheets is formidable but Italy can take heart from being the only team to score against Spain at Euro 2012. The Spanish defence don't look unbreakable and yet they're rarely flustered. Midfield dominance, the way that Iniesta and Xavi monopolise the ball, is what makes it so difficult for opponents to threaten the Spanish goal.
I'm not going to back a fifth Spain clean sheet in a row. Pique and Sergio Ramos won't enjoy facing Balotelli and I think the Italy striker could get another first half goal in the final.
Over all, though, I've got to stick with Spain. Even if they go behind, I think they can pick Italy apart. They will be patient and, although they couldn't break down Portugal, I can see them threading their way through the Italian back four in the second-half.
The final will be tight but there should be no shortage of drama and the quality quota is through the roof. Hats off to the hosts for putting on a top tournament. Spain and Italy will produce a fitting final and for me it's the holders to win inside 90 minutes.
Recommended Betfair Bets
3pts Back Spain @ Betfair odds of (2.24)
1pt Back 2-1 @ (11.5)
1pt Back Spain to win from behind @(11.5)
1pt Back Mario Balotelli to be the first goalscorer @(9.0)
2pts Back Mario Balotelli to be Euro 2012 top goalscorer