Spain will hope to end 2018 on a high when they play their final game of the year against Bosnia and Herzegovina at Estadio Gran Canaria on Sunday
International football will be on show for the last time in 2018 over the coming week, before it takes a break for around four months. At Estadio Gran Canaria in Las Palmas, Spain will be hoping to overturn their recent losing run and end the calendar year on a high when they host Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday.
Spain had started positively under the tutelage of Luis Enrique, winning three games on the bounce. But, La Roja have since been on a two-game losing run, with both England and Croatia beating them narrowly. The two results have also brought an end to their UEFA Nations League campaign, although they have kept their status intact in the top-flight.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, too, have played their last match in the UEFA Nations League group stage, and are bracing themselves to join League A in the next iteration after topping Group 3 in League B. The Balkan outfit have been in fine form, having been beaten just once in 2018.
The last fixture that pitted Spain and Bosnia against each other saw Spain notching up a 3-1 win, thanks to goals from Nolito and Pedro. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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The 3-2 loss at the hands of Croatia would have been hard to take for Luis Enrique, particularly because the Balkans only managed to grab all three points deep into injury time. Regardless of the result though, the Spain head coach will look to ring in the changes and hand some of the inexperienced players a taste of international football.
One of the changes, however, will be forced, after Spain captain Sergio Ramos returned to club side Real Madrid due to a groin injury sustained over the course of the game against Croatia. In his stead, Mario Hermoso will hope to make his debut for the national side, with Inigo Martinez being his partner at the heart of the defence.
The full-back pairing should be shuffled as well, with Jonny and Cesar Azpilicueta likely to man the flanks for the hosts. The backline should guard a goal that will be protected by Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has replaced David de Gea in such friendlies on earlier occasions as well.
In midfield, the overworked Sergio Busquets is likely to be rested, with Rodri being his natural replacement as the anchor man ahead of the back four. Dani Ceballos should retain his place in the side, but Pablo Fornals will fancy his chances of making it to the starting lineup as the Spain playmaker.
Up ahead in attack, there should be a brand new trio altogether, with Alvaro Morata being accompanied by Suso and Marco Asensio. Suso, in particular, will be hoping to make a mark and make the right wing slot his own, with the position posing a fair few problems to the Spain boss.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Hermoso, Martinez, Jonny; Fornals, Rodri, Ceballos; Suso, Morata, Asensio
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina, like Spain, have been struck by injury blows to key players as well. While the likes of Asmir Begovic, Sead Kolasinac and Goran Zakaric were already missing from the squad, Ognjen Vranjes and Miralem Pjanic have also pulled out due to their respective fitness problems.
With no natural right-back in the squad, Robert Prosinecki could be forced to play Muhamed Besic as a makeshift right-back, having done so on previous occasions as well. At the heart of the Bosnian defence, Toni Sunjic and Ervin Zukanovic should be the preferred pairing, with Bojan Nastic being the left-back.
The backline should be provide cover to Kenan Piric, who should receive a rare start against Spain on Sunday. In midfield, Prosinecki has the unenviable task to replace Pjanic and Besic, with Gojka Cimirot and Rade Krunic likely to replace the experienced duo.
Upfront, Edin Dzeko is the star man for the visitors, and the AS Roma superstar will hope to lead by example against a stuttering Spain side. Meanwhile, Haris Duljevic and Edin Visca should provide company to Dzeko in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Piric; Besic, Sunjic, Zukanovic, Nastic; Krunic, Cimirot, Saric; Visca, Dzeko, Duljevic
- Spain are yet to be beaten by Bosnia and Herzegovina after seven meetings between the two sides (W5 D2).
- Spain have suffered successive defeats for the first time since Euro 2016 and have conceded in six of their last seven matches in all competitions.
- La Roja’s defensive frailties can be evidenced by the fact that as many as four sides have managed to score three goals past them over the last 12 months.
- Both teams have scored in four of Spain’s five matches since the end of the World Cup.
- Bosnia have been beaten just once in 2018, and are unbeaten in their last nine games (W5 D4).
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After a solid start under Luis Enrique, Spain seem to be back to square after back-to-back losses. If the last two results have exposed anything it’s that La Roja are porous at the back, which should have Edin Dzeko licking his lips at the prospect of facing up against a vulnerable defence.
Bosnia are much deprived of their star players themselves, and Dzeko will have to lead from the front against the hosts. If he manages to set the right example, Bosnia might be able to inflict damage to Spain for the final time in 2018 while ending a solid year on a positive note.
Spain 1-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Spain’s troubles aren’t just vanishing into thin air despite a positive start under the tutelage of Luis Enrique. But, the last two games have shown that the former Barcelona boss cannot just yield a magic wand to guide La Roja back to the top echelons of world football.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, have enjoyed a solid year, having only been beaten in their first game of 2018. The Balkans even enjoyed a solid UEFA Nations League campaign by completing their progress to the top-flight by topping Group 3 in League B.
Considering their defensive struggles, Bosnia should be in the game throughout the 90 minutes, although the Spanish youngsters will have a point to prove on Sunday. The Hard Tackle predicts a keenly contested affair, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw.