Spain Look to Book Place in Last Four of UEFA Nations League5 min read
Yet another international break, though Real Madrid for one will be delighted they now have two weeks to get their injured players back to fitness. Fortunately for Luis Enrique, there’s no associative knock-on effect for Spain side because Nacho wasn’t picked on this occasion. Whether Marco Asensio and Isco will make the starting line-up is an interesting point to debate, given that neither have seen as many minutes as they would like under new Madrid coach, Santiago Solari. Sergio Ramos is just about the only fit first choice defender for Los Blancos, and his experience is needed for La Roja as they look to get the win that will take them straight through to the ‘Final Four’ of the UEFA Nations League. After a surprising defeat to England at home last time out, Enrique will demand a reaction, and where the Asturian has been clever is by bringing players into the team who are hungry and with a point to prove. Players such as Mario Hermoso of Espanyol, Brais Mendez of Celta Vigo and Villarreal’s Pablo Fornals. You can add Jordi Alba to that list after his much publicised tete-a-tete with the coach, which seems to be a follow on from their time together at Barcelona. When you consider that Marcos Alonso, Raul Albiol, Marc Bartra, Paco Alcacer, Pablo Sarabia, Sergio Canales and Borja Iglesias are all missing, despite being picked for the last squad, it really does emphasise the strength in depth that the Spanish have available. Nevertheless, it takes a brave coach to make such sweeping changes, though Enrique’s never been one for conformity. Croatia are desperate for a victory that would give them a fighting chance of overhauling both Spain and England to top the group. In order for that to happen, they must win both of their remaining fixtures. Their problem has been finding extra reserves of energy in games. Having gone almost all the way in the World Cup, their players were rushed back from their holidays to get a full pre-season with their clubs under their belts. Such lethargy was bound to take its toll eventually, but could they now be buoyed by a partisan home crowd? No goals for is a shocking return at this point, however, it’s worth noting that their previous home game was played behind closed doors and that’s bound to affect any team. The ‘12th man’ certainly shouldn’t be overlooked here, and Spain will have to score relatively early if they want to quieten down what’s expected to be a raucous capacity crowd. [caption id="attachment_8368" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] [/caption] Neither Luka Modric nor Ivan Rakitic have been at their peak recently, and the experienced pairing are central to everything good that the Croatian’s do. With either being capable and willing runners they’ll get right to the heart of the Spanish midfield, meaning Rakitic’s club colleague, Sergio Busquets, has to up his game too, for the Spaniard has made a number of errors in recent games which is most unlike him. Spain should still enjoy the lion’s share of possession but what they do with it will ultimately dictate which way this game will go. The hosts may even be keen to let their opponents knock the ball about and play a counter-attacking game which will suit them better. Spain to win and both teams to score in 90 mins is at , which, given current form, seems a sensible bet.