England host Spain on Saturday night, as Gareth Southgate’s men play their first UEFA Nations League fixture.
It’s the third meeting between the sides since 2015, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises for either country. The Three Lions are 31/20 for victory, with Spain available at 8/5. There’s 15/8 about a draw.
But Spain are a team in transition, following a disastrous World Cup which saw Julen Lopetegui fired on the eve of the tournament.
Luis Enrique is in charge now, and this is his first match as national coach. He’s been tasked with bringing back the 2008-2012 glory days.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash at Wembley, we’ve highlighted three men who could be pivotal for success in the Enrique-era…
During their halcyon days of a decade ago, Spain could count upon David Villa to score the big goals. The former Barcelona legend was as clinical and as smart as they came, and they’ve struggled to find a successor.
Former boss Lopetegui tried and ultimately failed with Diego Costa. The Atletico Madrid striker’s game just doesn’t quite fit in the national picture.
Will Enrique go with Alvaro Morata instead? The Chelsea forward is four years Costa’s junior, and is arguably far more in tune with the Spanish style of football.
There aren’t too many world class Spanish strikers knocking around right now. If Enrique can find a way to recapture that Villa magic with Morata, then he might well avoid the fate of his predecessor.
Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio was one of Zinedine Zidane’s most trusted performers during the Frenchman’s helm at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The 22-year-old has become a vital player in the Spanish capital, and is now an international regular too.
Widely regarded as one his country’s brightest attacking talents, Enrique must unlock Asensio’s skill on the national stage. Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus may allow the forward to blossom for both club and subsequently his country over the next few years.
After a sterling couple of years with Villarreal, 22-year-old Rodri bagged a summer move back to Atletico Madrid.
The midfielder only made his international debut in March, but is being tipped as one of the crucial players for Spain’s return to the good days.
Enrique also has Dani Ceballos to consider in his future midfield plans. He’ll need to find a way to bring out the best of both players in the years to come, particularly if they’re a partnership in the middle.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication