England v Spain at Wembley is one of those international matches that really whets the appetite. Anyone recall Euro 96 as a starter for 10?!
On home soil, England beat Spain 4-2 on penalties, goalkeeper David Seaman and left-back Stuart Pearce among the heroes to help England through to the European Championships Semi-Finals.
This Saturday evening at Wembley England and Spain meet once again in a European clash, both sides playing their first match of the inaugural UEFA Nations League.
The two most recent fixtures between the sides have seen La Roja remain unbeaten, but the Three Lions will be kicking themselves for letting their visitors back into their 2016 friendly, leading 2-0 with a minute to play.
On that occasion, Iago Aspas and Isco, the latter deep into injury time, clawed back a match that looked well beyond Spain just a few minutes before. Six yellow cards in the game also evidenced a feisty encounter.
Prior to that, in November 2015, England lost 2-0 but it’s worth noting that they don’t tend to lose too many games between the various tournaments. Indeed, Gareth Southgate was unbeaten in World Cup qualifying, succumbing only to France and Germany in friendly matches.
Before his shock sacking, Julen Lopetegui had also seen La Roja through a two-year period where they didn’t lose. New man in charge, Luis Enrique, therefore has a lot to live up to, and he’s already sent shock waves through Spanish football by dropping Jordi Alba and Koke. He’d also left Aspas out too, but Diego Costa’s withdrawal for personal reasons has seen the Celta Vigo man reinstated.
With no injury concerns to worry about, Southgate’s XI virtually picks itself, and after some incredible physical battles in the first three games of the Premier League, England’s finest will be looking forward to testing themselves against Europe’s pass masters.
It’s rare for defenders to score for club or country, but when you’re Sergio Ramos, no such barriers exist. The Spain and Real Madrid captain is just as happy providing a supplementary attacking presence as he is doing the job he is handsomely remunerated for.
And far from being a hindrance to his striking colleagues, the centre-back’s forays are intelligent and provide a further outlet for La Roja and Los Blancos.
Utterly fearless, he is a real leader of men and he’ll put his head in where it hurts, particularly at set pieces. How many times have we seen him pop up, often late in the game, to save or even win a match?
His international team-mates are well drilled on which movements to make to allow Ramos to get on the end of a free-kick, and woe betide any England player that gets in his way and tries to block him off.
An accomplished penalty taker too, as we’ve already seen this season, there’s every chance that he’ll get on the score sheet at Wembley. Bet365 are offering a mouth-watering 11/2 for Ramos to score at anytime, and that’s too good to turn down.
UEFA have been keen to stress that the Nations League is not a ‘friendly’ tournament and as such are expecting their members to take this competition seriously. However, as we’ve so often seen with the first international break in a season, no one really wants to go at it hell for leather for fear of injury.
It must be borne in mind too that some players are still playing their way back to full fitness and so the tendency to play it safe will certainly be there.
England v Spain games are almost always entertaining affairs, so we can expect goals, but Southgate’s side have struggled to score more than once against the more established nations. They remain formidable at home though, having not lost since March 29, 2016, against the Netherlands.
Wembley is likely to be full to capacity as England’s World Cup heroes are welcomed home, and everyone should be satisfied with a 1-1 score line. Especially those punters that will have taken the 13/4 for the draw and over 1.5 goals - available at Ladbrokes.
There’s some certainty to this being a carnival atmosphere and that will filter its way down to the players on the pitch. Even though England were ultimately unsuccessful in Russia, in every game there was a confidence in their play and their passing was on point.
Luis Enrique will have his own ideas on how he wants his Spain side to play, and that’ll take some time to come to fruition. This first match under the new regime could be considered as a ‘getting to know you’ exercise, and whilst Spain are finding their feet, England can take advantage in the opening 45.
A decent 12/5 for Southgate’s men to be leading at half-time is being offered by 888Sport.