Xavi and Pirlo by numbers: Where the value lies in backing Spain and Italy's midfield maestros

Two of the favourites for the player of the tournament award will square off in Kiev and Jim Knight takes a look at Sportingbet's exclusive special markets for their performances
Andrea Pirlo has been lauded as the player of Euro 2012 so far and is well backed for the accolade even before Sunday's final between Italy and Spain, despite the Azzurri being outsiders to lift the trophy. Sportingbet have an industry best price of 4/5 (1.80) available on Pirlo to win the award.

The 33-year-old has had a masterful command of the Italian midfield throughout the tournament, dictating play as well as scoring the only direct free-kick of the tournament so far against Croatia.

The Juventus man had a passing accuracy rate of 92.4 per cent against Germany in the semi-final and he will need to be at his best again when he comes up against the best team in the world at ball retention, Spain.

Xavi v Pirlo: June 10 2012
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Completion rate
Shots on target
Shots off target
Chances created
Duels won

La Roja's success in major tournaments is often attributed to how well they are able to control games through restricting the opposition to as little possession as possible. Against Portugal in the semi-final, they allowed Paulo Bento's men just 35.6% of possession.

Ultimately, if the opposition don't have the ball, they can't score.

Although you'd expect Spain to maintain the lion's share of the ball in the final as they did in their group stage meeting (65.9%), Pirlo still has the talent to make a significant impact. He provided the assist for the Italian goal and created two chances despite seeing significantly less of the ball than his Spanish counterpart.

Italy are 14/1 (15.0) to score direct from a free kick of which Pirlo will have first refusal and the same price applies to the Juve man scoring anytime in an Italy win.

While he may not be the most prolific of players, he has attempted two shots in each of the knockout stage games, perhaps growing more adventurous as the tournament wears on.

Pirlo is 6/4 (2.50) to have over 1.5 shots in this match with Sportingbet or 9/1 (10.0) to score from outside the box, a good value long-shot considering teams very rarely get in behind the Spanish back four and are restricted to shots from distance.

Xavi completed 107 passes in the first game between these two sides in matchday 1 and he is 10/1 (11.0) to get on the scoresheet anytime during a Spain win in this game. He is also priced at 6/4 (2.50) to attempt two more shots during the match; that bet would have been a winner in the first game between the two.

The Barcelona man is 8/1 (9.0) to pick up the man of the match award while Pirlo is shorter at 9/2 (5.50), perhaps a price indicative of him being touted for the wider prize of player of the tournament but also an indication of how much Italy rely on him to pull the strings.

That price still looks to carry significant value as if Italy are to mount any challenge to Spain's dominance, Pirlo will be a pivotal part of it and he is very much the man of the moment in this tournament.

Xavi is yet to pick up a booking in the tournament so far but as the World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain two years ago showed, discipline can sometimes go out of the window when there is so much at stake.

Xavi was shown a late yellow card in that game and he is 3/1 (4.0) to be booked in this match and 18/1 (19.0) to be the first name in the referee's book.

Pirlo, who is also yet to have his name in an official's notebook is 10/3 (4.33) to be booked anytime during the match or 18/1 (19.0) to be the first player shown a yellow card.

Although neither of them seem likely candidates for the first booking there could be some value in backing either to be booked at anytime, time-wasting can often see those players with good disciplinary records shown cards in high profile matches such as this one.


For more match statistics from Goal.com visit our match centre here

Andrea Pirlo to win the Man of the Match award at 9/2 (5.50) with Sportingbet

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Jim Knight is Betting Editor at Goal.com and has been tipping football games since he was old enough to place a bet. He is a Leicester City fan, writer and member of the We Are Going Up Podcast
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