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Juanfran vs Azpilicueta vs Bellerin: A statistical look on who should be Spain's first choice right-back

The insurmountable Azpilicueta or the all attacking Juanfran or the young and exciting Bellerin; who should start for Spain?


Cesar Azpilicueta
Cesar Azpilicueta was Spain’s first choice at right-back at the 2014 World Cup

 As the saying goes “Attack wins you games. Defense wins you titles”. Spain’s solid impenetrable defense was one of the keys to their success in the previous two editions of UEFA EURO. The four-man backline will most likely be filled by Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, and Sergio Ramos. That leaves us with the right side of the defense. Ever since the retirement of Carles Puyol and switching of Sergio Ramos from the right to the centre of the defence, the right back has been a position of worry for the Spaniards.

With Dani Carvajal out injured, the right-back position of the defending champions must be filled by either of Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran, Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta or the most recent addition to the Spanish squad – Hector Bellerin of Arsenal.

Today we look at each of the contenders for the spot and try to decipher who will finally get Vicente del Bosque’s nod for the starting eleven.


 Total PassesPass CompletionKey PassesChances createdGoals ScoredAerial duels wonInterceptionsBlocksClearances









Cesar Azpilicueta

Azpilicueta is a hard-working resilient defender known for his never-back-down attitude. The most defensive minded of the three, the Chelsea man interestingly has passed the ball more than either Juanfran or Bellerin. This totally comes in handy considering Spain’s ball-retention and tiki-taka philosophy.

Comparing the stats of 2015-16 Premier league season, Azpilicueta scores above his compatriots in passes, goals scored, tackles, aerials duels, interceptions, clearances, and blocks. It is to be noted that he is given very little protection by Eden Hazard, who is quite rightly given the freedom to roam the pitch & work his magic, but opponents rarely get the better of an isolated Azpilicueta.

A right-footer on the left side of defence could often be taken on around the outside, but the Spaniard tends to try and show opponents infield, and when they do make it past him down the line he has a fantastic turn of pace with which to recover. His 2.4 tackles per game are amongst the best in the Premier League, while he makes even more (3.3) in Champions League matches.

All the while he commits just 0.6 fouls per game. Unassuming in his defensive duties, what makes the Spaniard so impressive is that his work often goes unnoticed. A full-back's work without the ball is often only highlighted when their opposing winger runs riot, but he is often an unmentioned member of fortified Chelsea performances. At his worst, Azpilicueta would still be a solid, reliable, consistent part of any Spanish squad. The defender is both a stern stalwart against opposition attackers and a valuable attacking outlet on the front foot.

Spanish right-back stats
Stats courtesy: squawka.com (All stats are for the 2015-16 league season)
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