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elpresidente On November - 12 - 2011

England v Spain Preview

I´m not usually in the business of covering internationals, let alone friendlies, but since this is one of these storied match-ups, set in mythical Wembley even if it is the reconstituted version of the fabled stadium made of reinforced concrete and costly litigation. Even if it has been half a century since the mother country, birthplace of football, dominated all competitions, everyone, even European Champions and World Cup winners Spain measures itself against the English. Regardless of history, this match is important because Euro 2012 is in plain sight and both sides want to establish themselves in the approach.

For Spain, it looks like Casillas will continue in goal and Sergio Ramos will partner with either Pique or Albiol in the center. The ex-Sevilla defender has been playing in the center with Real Madrid and Vicente del Bosque is eager to maintain his club form while playing with La Roja. Arbeloa slots in to his more preferred position on the right and either Nacho Monreal or Jordi Alba will start on the left. Sergi Busquets is a del Bosque favorite so he´ll anchor the back and Xabi Alonso will likely help out.

It looks like a 4-3-3, at least initially, but Spain have tended toward 4-2-3-1 recently especially against attacking teams like England. Xavi will start in the middle with Cesc Fabregas getting significant minutes especially late on in his return to England, and the attacking trident of David Silva, David Villa and Andres Iniesta will weave and link with each other all along the front-line.

World-cup hero Iniesta will most likely start on the left and Premier League starlet Silva will do his very best to continue playing as Spain´s false 9 in his best Lionel Messi imitation, but the real enigma in this iteration of the Spanish national team is the recent play of David Villa. One of the great strikers of this generation, Spain´s number one goalscorer is on one of his rare goal-scoring droughts. Granted, that´s a run of form for his current club FC Barcelona and even great players seem to fall under the very long-shadow of Messi but Villa´s play is key if Spain are going to win this match and take that into Euro 2012.

England on the other hand are hurting. Ignore the furore over whether or not England should honor their war dead by wearing poppies to commemorate Armistice Day, there are pressing matters at hand. John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Steven Gerrard will all be missing from the match and Fabio Capello´s squad still seems a reach as Manchester United defender Phil Jones will likely start in the holding role for England. Frank Lampard will start alongside and will captain the side as well. Joe Hart will be in goal supported by defenders Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole on the left. Scott Parker and James Milner will round out the midfield alongside Lampard and Jones, and Darren Bent and Theo Walcott will play up front. Is it a classic 4-4-2 or some hybrid 4-5-1? Who knows. Will it matter?

I think people are expecting a Spanish win but I´m not. Spain don´t play well at Wembley, they don´t play well in friendlies and this is a difficult time to disconnect from league play to manage the energy to face a European rival in frankly a meaningless game. England have more to play for and if they had been anywhere near full-strength they might fare better in this match. I am thinking it´ll probably end 1-1 with Spain coming back late to ensure the point.

 

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