UEFA Nations League 2018-19: Spain v England, Preview
Two of Europe's World Cup winning nations go head-to-head on Monday, as England take on Spain in Seville. The Three Lions played out a boring draw in Croatia and have to beat Spain in order to have any realistic chance of advancing from the group.
Meanwhile, Spain have been going from strength to strength, as Luis Enrique continues to ease in the next generation of Spanish talent.
Wales 1-4 Spain (Friendly)
Spain made it 3 wins from 3 games under Luis Enrique on Thursday by strolling past Wales in Cardiff. Enrique rotated his side but that had little effect on the scoreline as Paco Alcacer (2) and Captain Sergio Ramos both scored to put La Furia Roja into a commanding 3-0 half-time lead.
Marc Bartra added a fourth late on before Sam Vokes got a consolation for the home side just before the final whistle. As expected, Spain dominated possession and the chances created with the lion's share of the ball that they had, they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Croatia 0-0 England (Nations League)
England were held to an underwhelming stalemate in Rijeka on Friday in a match that Gareth Southgate claims they should've won. Southgate named a strong starting XI but the Three Lions couldn't get the job done behind closed doors and in an eerie atmosphere.
Croatia had a great chance to take the lead in the first half through Andrej Kramaric but it was the away side which had more shots. Raheem Sterling, Eric Dier, Harry Kane and especially Marcus Rashford all had good chances to win the match, but a combination of poor finishing and bad luck meant that England drew a blank.
Spain were able to rest a number of key players and have had a day's extra rest before playing England. Marcos Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Rodrigo and Thiago (amongst others) should all return to the starting lineup in what is a very strong eleven from the Spaniards. Rodrigo caused England a lot of problems when the sides met at Wembley, and the Valencia forward should start again, especially after Alvaro Morata failed to net against Wales.
Marcus Rashford's poor display could see him dropped for protege Jadon Sancho, after the Borussia Dortmund winger came off the bench on Friday. Elsewhere on the field, I'm predicting the same lineup to the one against Croatia, as Southgate will want his more experienced players for a difficult tie like this. James Maddison could make an appearance from the start, but I doubt an attacking midfielder like him will be risked from the off.
Key Player: Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has been playing for his national side for 13 years now and has been captain of Spain since Iker Casillas fell out of favour in 2016. It seems hard to believe, but Ramos is close to eclipsing Casillas' cap record for La Furia and will likely pass the 167-mark sometime next year.
Ramos is one of the best centre-backs in the world, possibly the best, and is a threat at both ends of the pitch, commanding his defence while also being a threat from set pieces. Indeed, the Real Madrid man is the top scorer in the current Spanish selection. Ramos' main duties will be to keep Harry Kane off the scoresheet but Harry Maguire and John Stones will have to protect Jordon Pickford from his aerial ability.
Spain will win Group A4 in the Nations League with a victory on Monday and are in an ideal position after winning both their opening matches. The home side haven't lost a match in 90 minutes since Euro 2016 and haven't lost a home competitive match since Greece bested them in qualifying for Euro 2004.
So, the odds are definitely stacked against England as they'll have to improve their chance-taking to stand any chance of a positive result. A draw would be a good result for the Three Lions, but that result would still prevent Southgate's side from progressing to the next stage of the competition.
Prediction: Spain 2-0 England
Just like at Wembley, Spain will have too much for England to handle, and even a good performance from the away side will still likely end in defeat. The damage was done in the previous two games, Spain should finish the Group Stage as deserved winners and all that will be left to be decided now is who will be relegated to League B between Croatia and England.