Saturday 8 September 2018

UEFA Nations League - England vs Spain

The UEFA Nations League competition has the distinction of being so brand spanking new that I only just realised that England are even playing tonight! That's partly on occupational hazard when these events are shuffled quietly away onto Sky Sports. If we do well maybe we'll have the treat of a pay per view final. I jest!

Of all of the opponents England could face in their opening game, Spain will surely be a tricky prospect, but buoyed from their World Cup success, England will be looking to keep the positive momentum going. With that in mind the team hasn't dramatically changed with an 'if it ain't broke' thought likely in Gareth Southgate's mind.

Still, there are some changes. Players such as Luke Shaw, Joe Gomez (sadly ruled out of the World Cup due to injury) and goalkeeper Jack Butland will be looking to make an impact, and Marcus Rashford, who perhaps deserved more time in this year's World Cup, has yet another opportunity to shine and stake a claim to a more permanent starting place in the England team. Kane will be present of course and hoping to impress. Gareth Southgate will clearly be watching the game with one eye on the future big competitions, and how best to move forward with this youthful team.

We want to test ourselves against the very best," said Southgate.

Spain don't currently hold this same consistency After going through three coaches in three months, they will be looking to steady themselves and get on an even keel. With the likes of  David Silva, Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué now out of the picture, the old faces are few and far between (Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets) and so Spain will be looking for new blood to forge a successful path going forward. - Marcos Alonso, Alvaro Morata, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Cesar Azpilicueta will all play a role.

This sets the stage for an interesting matchup. Historically England's record against Spain is poor, but the easy ride England had in the World Cup doesn't take away from the fact that the team has gelled well of late when compared to Spain's fortunes. But then are the very top teams ever more than a few games from finding their way again? The odds reflect the uncertainty with England at 17/10 to win and Spain 19/10. The draw is 11/5. My head says Spain will find a way, but my heart says England. The curse of the patriot, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the first to have a patriotic punt either! That said on this occasion, I think I'll just sit out placing a bet and enjoy the game!

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