As preparations for Euro 2016 begin in earnest for the already-qualified nations, all the talk around England focuses on how their upcoming friendly schedule will be a real test of their readiness to win in France.
Along with the summer’s tournament hosts, Roy Hodgson’s men will play Spain, Germany and the Netherlands before heading across the Channel for an 11/1-rated assault to conquer the continent.
That quartet of fixtures begins with a trip to face Vicente del Bosque’s defending European champions, but it may not quite provide the kind of test that many are expecting.
On paper facing Spain is a daunting prospect. That’s reflected in La Roja’s 7/10 favouritism to win the match, but in reality they are a unit battling their own uncertainties, perhaps even more than England.
Up front, Del Bosque continues to prefer Chelsea’s Diego Costa despite the nationalised Brazilian not scoring in an international for over a year.
The burly frontman seems at odds with the rest of the team’s playing style and tends to stunt typically Spanish free-flowing passing attacks with his immobility.
Sergio Busquets is the lynchpin of the nation’s midfield, but the embarrassment of riches to fill the spots around him makes the selection waters particularly muddy for the 64-year-old manager.
Then, in goal, Iker Casillas’ untouchable status is irking many who see David de Gea as the future. The Manchester United man has, incredibly given his form for the past two years, made just seven appearances for the national team.
No matter how well he plays, and how error-prone Casillas becomes, he cannot seem to oust the omni-present stopper from the side. It’s ironic considering Del Bosque has reiterated frequently since the disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign that the team is in transition and building for the future.
Amid all that Spain have, in the past 14 months, lost to France, Germany and the Netherlands without scoring a goal. England are 13/2 to add their names to that list.
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