Spain would confirm themselves as the winners of Group 4 in League A of the UEFA Nations League with victory over England in the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville on Monday (19:45 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Spain top the three-team group with six points after defeating England 2-1 at Wembley and thrashing Croatia 6-0 in Elche last month. Croatia and England are tied on a point apiece. Just two points from their remaining two matches would qualify Spain for the final four.
La Roja have made a very good start to life under new coach Luis Enrique. After the aforementioned victories against England and Croatia, they produced another strong performance in a 4-1 friendly win away to Wales on Thursday.
The match was pretty much decided inside the opening half-hour, as Spain raced into a commanding lead with two goals from a rejuvenated Paco Alcacer and another from Sergio Ramos. Marc Bartra added a fourth during the second half before Wales, missing the injured Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, notched a late consolation.
It was another match that left positive impressions and suggested that Spain’s relative underperformance at the World Cup, where they were eliminated on penalties by hosts Russia in the last 16, was due more to the turmoil surrounding the departure of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament than the underlying quality of the players.
Enrique has made some subtle tweaks here and there, given Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul a role of greater importance and emphasised the need to combine spells of controlled possession with sharper transitions from defence to attack. It is a similar job to the one he did at Barcelona, which yielded a Champions League trophy, two league titles and three Spanish Cups in a three-year spell.
It is still very early into his reign, and the importance of the UEFA Nations League can certainly be questioned, but the early signs are that Enrique is the right man to make Spain genuine challengers at Euro 2020.
That is not necessarily a status that could be applied to England, despite the fact that they went two rounds further in Russia. Subsequent performances have suggested there are plenty of improvements to be made if they are to repeat that run in two years time.
The latest came in a 0-0 draw away to Croatia in a surreal spectacle behind closed doors in Rijeka on Friday. As in the World Cup, it was set pieces that provided England’s clearest route to goal. Eric Dier and Harry Kane both struck the woodwork after getting on the end of deliveries into the area. Croatia rarely threatened and England did also create a couple of presentable opportunities in open play, with Marcus Rashford twice denied.
It was certainly a better display than in their semi-final defeat to the same opposition in the World Cup. Gareth Southgate afterwards focused on the positives, not least the way his side had dealt with the switch from the 3-5-2 formation they have mostly used under him to a 4-3-3 alignment. He felt that recent opponents had been able to pin back England’s wing-backs and that alternatives should be trialled. It was a largely successful experiment.
Whether the new approach will stand up to scrutiny against Spain is, however, another matter. England certainly had their chances in the loss at Wembley last month and a draw would not have been an unfair result, but it was Spain who largely controlled the encounter, looking more accomplished both tactically and technically.
Our Preview’s Spain vs. England Betting Tips Verdict
Spain have triumphed in each of the last four matches between these sides on Spanish soil, including a 2-0 victory in the last meeting in Alicante in 2015. England’s last win came back in 1987. With regular starters John Stones and Jordan Henderson suspended, Southgate will again have to shuffle his pack a little on Monday, handing a further advantage to their hosts.
In truth, anything but a victory for Spain would be somewhat of a surprise.
- This Spain vs England preview’s tip is to bet on Spain to win in a match featuring over 2.5 goals @ 7/4 with Betfair.