Italy legend and captain, Gianluigi Buffon has said it will be strange to play against former world number one team, Spain without his long-time rival and opposite number Iker Casillas in the squad.
Buffon, 38, will be in goal for Italy as they take on La Roja in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday, with the Juventus star targeting Russia 2018 as his swansong as the No. 1 keeper for the Azzurri.
It will be recalled that former Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque picked David De Gea as his first-choice keeper at last summer’s European Championship in France and new manager Julen Lopetegui left Casillas out of the squad altogether for the upcoming round of qualifiers.
Buffon said: “It does seem strange,” he told a news conference when asked about Casillas’ omission. “It’s a sign that we’re reaching our sell-by date.
“We’re reaching the end of our careers, which is normal. I’m going to enjoy taking part in it as long as I can. I don’t want any regrets and I feel I can still improve.”
Italy and Buffon sent Spain packing from the Euro in the round of 16, with the 2-0 defeat ending hopes of a third consecutive European crown for Del Bosque’s team. And Buffon hopes this Italy team will take inspiration from that previous victory, while also realizing the enormity of the task at hand in Turin.
“I don’t have a clear memory of the Euro 2016 meeting — I don’t have the mental clarity yet to look at it without the adrenaline,” he said.
“We played in a lively way, as a team who wanted to get the result at all costs. We have to do the same tomorrow. That type of passion and desire is essential.
“That victory must not make us feel arrogant. We need to keep our feet on the ground and remember the humility that helped us win then.
“We are a year and a half off the World Cup, but we have to realise what this game is worth now.”
When told of the news that Diego Costa, who was left out of Spain’s Euro squad, would be leading the line for Lopetegui, Buffon expressed relief that he wouldn’t be facing former Juventus teammate Alvaro Morata.
“I’ll be happy to an extent if Alvaro doesn’t play — he always seems to manage to deal the decisive blow in big games,” Buffon said.
“Diego Costa was absent in Paris and [Giorgio] Chiellini will be missing, but there are another 10 players in each team.”