Victor Valdes believes stopping Andrea Pirlo could be crucial if Spain are to get their Euro 2012 campaign off to a winning start.
The defending champions take on Italy in Gdansk on Sunday in a game which is widely tipped to determine the eventual winners of Group C.
It will be a tough start for the world champions, despite the Azzurri's recent form that has seen them lose their last three games without scoring a goal.
And Valdes believes they should pay special attention to 33-year-old Pirlo.
He said: "He's the player that carries the Italian midfield.
"Everything goes through him. They have wingers that get forward a lot, they go on the attack. The strikers play quite deep, but they are always looking for that assist from Pirlo.
"We'll have to keep an eye on him and how we can counter that type of play."
Team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa agreed that Sunday's game would be a stern test for a squad which still includes 19 of the players who lifted the World Cup in South Africa two years ago.
He told UEFA's official website: "Italy can be struggling, perhaps not controlling the game, looking like they are not doing anything, but they are able to hold on, and then with one chance they can win the match.
"That is how the Italians are; they have that competitive edge, that winning nature that has seen them win so many titles."
After facing Italy, Spain take on Republic of Ireland on June 14th before completing their Group C fixtures against Croatia on June 18th.