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Arbeloa maps out Spain's EURO vision

Álvaro Arbeloa said Spain would "do our best" to ensure the loss of Carles Puyol and David Villa was not crucial as he looked ahead to facing Italy in their Group C opener.

Álvaro Arbeloa (left) in action during training on Wednesday
Álvaro Arbeloa (left) in action during training on Wednesday ©AFP

Any champion or successful competitor first has to do an audit of the problems and barriers in their path before glory can follow. Not quite Sun Tzu's Art of War 'Know Your Enemy', but certainly the concept of planning for the difficulties which await. Spain, it appears, have completed their audit and come out smiling with confidence.

Considering the absence of fundamental players like Carles Puyol and David Villa, that Spain's footballing nemesis are Italy – their first Group C opponents at UEFA EURO 2012 – and the fact that no side has ever won three successive international titles, the holders certainly face obstacles.

However, according to the man who has played the most international minutes for Vicente del Bosque this season, Álvaro Arbeloa, plus the multi-talented Javi Martínez, these are the hardships you must overcome if you want to fulfil your destiny.

Arbeloa, recently crowned a champion of Spain with Real Madrid CF, knows how much his defensive colleague from FC Barcelona matters to La Roja. "Puyol's is a painful absence," said the man who is in line to be Del Bosque's right-back on Sunday. "We all know his footballing qualities – he has great positional sense, he's quick, strong and has good reactions.

"Carles is the type who gives those around him lots of confidence on the pitch and whose experience is vital. On and off the pitch his character is a plus for us. The best way to explain it is that those of us who are here will do our best to ensure that people don't notice his absence."

The 29-year-old's view is that if Spain do well then no one will talk about Villa and Puyol, but if they stumble in their attempt to defend the UEFA European Championship won four years ago then many will place heavy significance on the fact that pair are out injured.

Eventual success will, to some degree, be a factor in how Spain begin. At all costs Arbeloa wants to prevent Italy doing what Switzerland managed two years ago at the FIFA World Cup. "Nobody wants to start a big tournament with a defeat," he explained. "Partly because it leaves you with no margin for error, partly because it affects confidence and mainly because it means qualification becomes difficult. Italy are tough rivals."

Arbeloa played the last time the sides met, a 2-1 win for the Azzurri in August 2011 when Martínez also completed 90 minutes. "The draw has paired us with Italy first and, honestly, we don't really care," said the Athletic Club man. "We are here to win this tournament and to do so we have to beat great sides. Spain are very optimistic about what lies in front of us."

Even constant talk about a possible lack of feeling between Spain's Barcelona and Madrid players, a subject often addressed by Del Bosque, does not concern Arbeloa. "Thankfully we all know how to differenciate between club and country and we are all here with the objective of retaining our trophy," he added. "If there are any difficulties between us then we'll smooth them out." The attitude of champions.