UEFA Nations League Spain v England Preview

October 11, 2018

- Grant Whittington

The games are coming thick and fast in the UEFA Nations League, as England follow their weekend game against Croatia with a trip to Seville to take on Spain.

This will be England’s third game in the tournament, and the Three Lions will likely be looking to gain a quick measure of revenge following their 2-1 defeat to Spain at Wembley in September.

We preview the game below, looking at whether Gareth Southgate’s youthful side can truly compete with one of the best teams in Europe.

Form and Background

England will arrive at the Estadio Benito Villamarín in mixed form, with the side apparently suffering from a sustained hangover following their World Cup semi-final defeat against Croatia in Moscow.

During the reverse clash in London barely one month ago, England struggled to make inroads against an excellent Spanish team, who appear to be building a formidable side despite the disappointment of an early World Cup exit at the hands of Russia.

Luis Enrique’s men, who also thrashed Croatia 6-0 with a thrilling performance at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero in Elche, fell behind to England thanks to an early strike by Marcus Rashford.

However, Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez equalised almost instantly with a low finish, before Rodrigo took advantage of poor marking at a free-kick to score what proved to be the winner.

Despite a late flurry that saw Danny Welbeck’s goal controversially ruled out for a foul on David De Gea, England struggled to cope with Spain’s quality and could ultimately have lost by more as the game played out.

While the most recent head-to-head certainly favours Spain, England actually have a better record over the course of the last 26 matches. The Three Lions have won 12 of these games, while earning four draws and scoring 42 goals in the process.

During the same side, Spain have won a total of 10 contests and scored a relatively paltry 30 goals, so England may be able to draw some solace from this.

How will the Sides Line Up?

England’s squad has been hit by injuries over the course of the last few weeks, with Danny Rose and Alex McCarthy the latest players to withdraw ahead of the Spain game.

They join Luke Shaw and James Tarkowski in declaring themselves unfit to play, while Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard will also remain absent.

With this in mind, Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell could well be set to take his place in the starting line-up, while his club teammate James Maddison may also be relied upon to inject some guile into the midfield.

In contrast, Spain have named a relatively strong squad for this match, with a superb blend of youth and experience evident across all areas of the pitch. Seasoned pros such as Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and David De Gea are all expected to start, for example, with Niguez, Rodrigo and Isco likely to inject some pace and energy.

Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio may also start on the right, providing Spain with the width that they lacked at times during the World Cup.

These two line-ups should contribute to an excellent game, and one which offers a potentially fascinating clash of styles.

Who will Prevail?

Given these facts and the sheer pedigree of the Spanish side, it should come as no surprise that Luis Enrique’s men will start as 13/16 favourites with the bookmakers.

Conversely, England can be backed at the longer price of 11/4, while bookies clearly do not fancy the draw at odds of 18/5.

From a tactical perspective, Spain also hold a clear advantage over their rivals, with their compact and technically adept midfield capable of monopolising possession. Even if England play somebody of James Maddison’s ilk in the midfield, it will be exceptionally difficult for them to gain possession and force the Spanish onto the back foot.

This will create a fascinating battle between attack and counter-attack, with the Three Lions likely to adopt a slightly more direct style and utilise the pace of Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck in attack.

While there’s no doubt that Southgate’s side will retain a goal threat and are more than capable of unsettling the Spanish with their pace, however, it’s hard to look beyond the quality that Spain have in their ranks.

Given that they’ve also thrashed both Argentina and Croatia 6-0 during the last six months, they’re also in a rich vein of form and bursting at the seams with genuine confidence.

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