11th October, 21 BST
Spain host Belarus in their next qualifier fixture at the Iberostar Stadium in Palma tonight. The corresponding fixture between these two sides ended in 4-0 victory for Spain as Pedro scored a wonderful hattrick after Jordi Alba provided them the lead. Although on the outset this match might seem to be a dead rubber, but Spain have a lot of play for if they are to finish as the group winners.
Spain are currently at the top of the points table in their group and are guaranteed a play-off spot. They are tied on points with France, although they have one game in hand. A victory in this match would mean that Spain would require only a draw against Georgia in their last game to qualify as the group winners.
Spain have been in fine run of form for a long time and have tasted only one defeat since August 2012 (at the final of the Confederations Cup against Brazil). In their last qualifier game, Spain coasted to a 0-2 victory over Finland as Jordi Alba and Negredo scored for the away side. They are coming into this game on the back of a 2-2 draw against Chile, in a friendly match, where Jesus Navas scored an equaliser in the dying moments of the game to snatch a draw. But it must be noted that a lot of first team regulars were absent in that game.
The big news in the squad selected for this game was the inclusion of Swansea striker Michu in place of injured David Villa. The 27-year-old was preferred over the likes of Soldado and Llorente and could possible make his debut in international football in this game. The notable absentee in this game will be Barcelona left back Jordi Alba.
Vicente del Bosque is expected to make five changes to the side that was fielded against Finland. Gerard Pique will replace Raul Albiol in the center of the defence and resume his partnership with Sergio Ramos, while Nacho Monreal will replace the injured Jordi Alba at the left back. Busquets will return to the midfield with Iniesta and Fabregas alongside him. Pedro, Negredo and Isco will form the front three in this game.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Casillas (GK); Koke, Ramos, Pique, Monreal; Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Negredo, Isco
Belarus are currently at the bottom of the points table and doesn’t really have anything to play for – other than the proverbial pride. An improbable win in this game will see them jump off the bottom and move them above Georgia – which is perhaps the biggest incentive they have from this game – apart from playing the reigning World and European champions on their home soil.
Belarus have managed to win only one match in this qualifying campaign so far – their home game against Georgia. In their last qualifier match Belarus put up a good performance against France, but eventually succumbed to a 4-2 defeat despite leading 2-1 at a certain point in the game. Manager Georgi Kondratiev will hope for similar performance from his players against Spain.
Kondratiev made a tactical experiment against France and changed his side to a 3-4-3 formation, with Aliaksandr Hleb playing in the role of a false number 9. But he is expected to change to a more defensive 5-4-1 formation against Spain as they look to hold them to a respectable scoreline. Kondratiev will make only one change to the side he fielded against France with Hleb being replaced by a more traditional striker Sergei Kornilenko.
Expected starting line-up (5-4-1): Vyeramko; Bardachev, Verkhovtsov, Martynovich, Filipenko, Balanovich; Kalachev, Tigorev, Dragun, Putsila; Kornilenko
Player to watch out for: Isco (Spain); Tomofei Kalachev (Belarus)
Prediction: Spain 3-0 Belarus