HAVING lost out to England in the Nations League, Spain must secure one of the top two places in this group to be guaranteed a spot at the 2020 European Championship. Norway are their first opponents this Saturday in Valencia.
The Spanish are the clear favourites to win Group F but this is a rebuilding process for La Roja under Luis Enrique and he has made some very surprising calls with this squad.
There was no initial place for Saul, a key player for Spain in the Nations League but he has since been called up following the withdrawal of Fabian Ruiz. The likes of Isco, Thiago and Dani Carvajal have also been excluded. Getafe’s Jaime Mata, Sergio Canales of Betis and Sergi Gomez of Sevilla are all included and are looking to win their first caps. It’s a risky policy in some respects and is largely a reaction to Spain losing their final two Nations League games, 3-2 against both England and Croatia.
Norway by contrast won their Nations League group although only against sides of the calibre of Cyprus, Bulgaria and Slovenia. Even so, it’s a rare recent success for the Norwegians who haven’t qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2000. The play-offs next year may offer them their best chance of ending two decades of hurt and they will be part of those games no matter how they perform in this group, which takes some of the pressure off them here.
Overall this is certainly a game Spain should win. Finding the right man to lead the line has been a problem for them in recent years but they at least have three strikers in decent form in this squad with Mata joined by Alvaro Morata and Rodrigo, who will be eager to make an impression on his own ground. The same goes for his Valencia teammate Dani Parejo who is unlucky not to have won more than a single cap. The strength in depth Spain have in midfield means they are in a unique position in that they can simply drop players of the quality of Isco when they are struggling for form or game-time with their clubs.
Norway have only lost once since the start of last year but they’ve not really faced any major tests. Their last game against elite European opposition ended in a 6-0 loss to Germany at the end of 2018 World Cup qualifying. Therefore it’s hard to see them restricting this Spanish side and a home win looks likely.
Spain do have a few defensive problems though, conceding 6 times in their last 2 competitive outings. They haven’t really settled on a new defensive partner for Sergio Ramos following the retirement of Gerard Pique and Norway could exploit those issues on the break with the pace of Josh King.
Therefore backing Spain & Both Teams to Score could be worth a punt.
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