Spain will continue to race with Italy for the top spot in group G as they prepare to take on FYR Macedonia in the sixth round of European World Cup Qualification
Spain have won four out of their last six games, failing to beat England and, most recently, Colombia in friendly matches. The game against Macedonia will provide them the perfect opportunity to claim three points as they fight it out with Italy for a top spot in group G.
However, the Red Fury will need to work on their defence as was evident in their last few matches. In fact, they have conceded in three of their last four games and Macedonia have scored in seven of their last nine matches, so if Spain are not careful, they might have to endure a nasty upset.
Macedonia have managed to extend their unbeaten streak with a draw at home to Turkey, after victories against Belarus and Liechtenstein back in March. Before that, they lost five games in a row. Even though they are not in a position to challenge for World Cup qualification next summer, they have improved remarkably.
The hosts sit in the fifth spot while Spain are at the top of the World Cup qualifying group, ahead of Italy on goal difference and four points clear of third-placed Israel.
Team News and Tactics
A lethal star-studded Spain squad will be captained by Sergio Ramos, joined by the likes of Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, and Dani Carvajal manning the defence. Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, and Isco will take charge of the midfield area and either Alvaro Morata or Diego Costa will lead the attack.
This is an intimidating squad for any team to go up against and Macedonia will have their work cut out for them. Spain will be aware of the stakes and look to claim those precious three points in a bid to maintain their good run. The Spaniards will look to build a certain amount of pressure upon the hosts to capitalize upon.
However, Spain will need to re-assess their defence and work towards making it stronger since they cannot afford mistakes similar to the friendly against Columbia. Macedonia will be aware of their weak defence and use that to their strength if they do not make an effort to strengthen the back line.
Having said that, Spain are known to dominate possession and surge forward with sudden attacks, and they are likely to do the same in this match just to create a set-up for an easy victory. The attack also needs to be sharp to penetrate Macedonia’s defence since they have been quite strong lately and can stop teams from moving forward.
Probable lineup (4-5-1): De Gea, Monreal, Pique, Alba, Ramos, Busquets, Koke, Isco, Silva, Iniesta, Morata
Macedonian star striker Goran Pandev will captain the squad as they prepare to face this tough match, whilst teenage midfielders Jani Atanasov and Elif Elmas are awaiting their debuts and might feature in this game.
They have had a dismal campaign as they went ahead and lost each of the four opening qualifiers to Albania, Israel, Italy and Spain. The team did show plenty of holes at the back as they allowed at least two goals in each of the losses mentioned above. However, their defence has improved and they will look to be solid against Spain.
In face, in their last three games, they kept consecutive clean sheets in the qualifier with Liechtenstein (0-3 win) and friendlies with Belarus (3-0 win) and Turkey (goalless draw).
Macedonia have relied on Goran Pandev for a long time to score goals but now he can enjoy the support of Ilija Nestorovski. The 27-year-old scored 11 Serie-A goals for Palermo last season, and has netted four times in this competition so far.
Nestorovski and Pandev are likely to keep pushing the Spanish defence in the hopes of spotting a weak moment and then capitalize on the same. The key for Macedonia will be to remain cautious, while launching an attack upon the Spaniards any minute they discover a weakness.
Probable lineup (3-5-2): Dimitrievski, Mosjov, Ristevski, Shikov, Ristovski, Hasani, Spirovski, Alioski, Churlinov, Pandev, Nestorovski
- The Red Fury have completely dominated this match-up as they clinched six easy wins in six head to head meetings with Macedonians.
- This includes a demolishing 4-0 victory in this qualifying term. Darko Velkoski scored an own goal to open the way for Spain to get the victory.
- Spain have scored in the second half in 100% of their qualifiers, conceding both their goals after the break too.
- Macedonia have taken just three points which came in an away win over Liechtenstein so far in the qualifiers.
Spain 3-1 Macedonia
Both Macedonia and Spain have plenty of holes at the back and that is something that can be exploited by either team. Spain will also be looking to boost up their confidence and claim three points ahead of a crucial fixture with Italy in September.
They will believe they can win this one after having won their last two trips to Macedonia by a single goal margin that will be enough to keep them on top. However, the Red Fury’s defence might get breached owing to the attacking combination of Nestorovski and Pandev.
However, Spain are likely to have plenty of possession and will remain a threat going forward, especially because of David Silva’s form. The Manchester City midfielder already has three Group G goals to his credit, and will be looking to add more.