David de Gea has received the backing of Spain team-mate Cesc Fabregas ahead of Monday’s Euro 2016 last-16 match with Italy.
The Manchester United goalkeeper was plunged into controversy surrounding his personal life on the eve of the tournament.
Critics then questioned his position as Spain’s No.1 after he was caught out at his near post by Ivan Perisic in Croatia’s surprise 2-1 victory over Vicente del Bosque’s side in Group D.
Fabregas thinks De Gea can put those problems behind him and focus on the Italians.
“He is a guy with a lot of confidence,” Fabregas told Spanish daily Marca. “I see him doing well, there isn’t a problem in his mind.”
Italy have not beaten Spain in a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup and were beaten by Monday’s opponents at Euro 2008 and in the 2012 final.
Despite history appearing to favour Spain, Fabregas predicted a tough encounter when the sides meet at the Stade de France (kick-off 5pm BST).
“Italy will push us from the very first minute,” the midfielder added. “They demand the maximum from their opponents by the way they play.
“We must get back to playing our best football, because it will be a game that requires it as they will not stop running or fighting for the ball.
“They have a very strong defence and make good use of the opportunities presented to them.”
Defeat to Croatia meant Spain finished runners-up in Group D, while Antonio Conte guided Italy to top spot in Group E.
Del Bosque named an unchanged side in each of Spain’s three group matches but could shuffle his pack. He has a fully-fit squad to pick from and is likely to favour sticking with De Gea in goal.
Conte is expected to be without midfield duo Antonio Candreva and Federico Bernardeschi after they failed to train on Saturday and will be mindful that a whopping ten of his players are one booking away from suspension.
This will be the 35th encounter between Italy and Spain. The record is perfectly balanced so far, with 10 wins each and 14 draws.
It will also be the sixth encounter between Italy and Spain in the European Championships making this the most played fixture in the history of the tournament.
Italy have used more players than any other team at Euro 2016 (22).
Spain have won the last two Euros (2008, 2012), which had never happened before in the history of the tournament.
Cesc Fabregas has delivered at least one assist in each of his six major tournaments with Spain. Since 1980, only Karel Poborksy has amassed more assists (6).
Sam Nyang’u’s prediction
How’s your luck Italy? One of the first teams to qualify for the last 16 and they get Spain. It makes no sense. First plays second but in another group, first plays third. It’s ridiculous.
I would not be surprised if it was goalless. It should be a tight game as there isn’t anything between these teams. Spain are alright when everything is going their way like it was against Turkey, but when it isn’t going their way, then they are a different team and I don’t think Italy will let them have it their own way. Defensively, Italy will not find Spain that difficult.
SAM PREDICTS: Italy wins 2-1