Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta has branded Italy "a powerful rival" ahead of their meeting in the last-16 stage of Euro 2016 on Monday night.
Spain are seen as the favourites to progress to the quarter-finals, but Iniesta has insisted that the holders will not underestimate Antonio Conte's side.
"They're a powerful rival, a difficult rival, and [it will be] a good game. It's a game that will be useful to us if we are to keep developing and taking steps in these Euros," Iniesta told reporters.
"Aside from the final four years ago, all of our games have been very closely fought out. Italy have excellent players and a great defensive block we've known about for a long time.
"Contrary to what I hear people saying, they also improved a great deal in terms of possession and ball-handling. They really stepped up, which makes the game on Monday even more complex and our aspirations even more difficult."
Iniesta was part of the Spain team that recorded a 4-0 win over Italy in the final of Euro 2012.