Spain and Norway will go head to head against each other in Group F of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on Saturday night.
Spain will be aiming to kickstart their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a victory, when they face off against Norway at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia on Saturday.
After a disappointing World Cup campaign, where they were dumped out of the competition at the Round of 16 stages by hosts Russia, Spain failed to make it to the finals of the UEFA Nations League as well, finishing second in Group A4, behind England.
Following their World Cup exit, Luis Enrique was appointed as the manager of La Roja. Under the former Barcelona boss, Spain have won four of their six fixtures, losing two, with their latest fixture ending in a narrow 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in November last year.
Norway, on the other hand, had not qualified for the World Cup, but had a solid UEFA Nations League campaign, as they managed to earn promotion to League B from League C. The Nordic nation have tasted defeat in just one of their last 12 matches, with their most recent fixture ending in a 2-0 win over Cyprus.
However, considering that their Nations League group consisted of the likes of Cyprus, Bulgaria and Slovenia, the opposition of the quality of Spain will pose a different challenge altogether for Lars Lagerback’s side on Saturday night.
Team News & Tactics
Real Madrid star Isco has been omitted from the squad by Luis Enrique, along with Koke and Thiago Alcantara. There have been surprise call-ups for the likes of Jaime Mata, Sergi Gomez, Iker Muniain, Sergio Canakes, all of whom have been solid performers for their respective clubs in Spain. Fabian Ruiz has withdrawn from the squad with Saul Niguez replacing him, after having not been picked initially.
David de Gea should get the nod between the sticks for the Spaniards ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga and Pau Lopez. The backline in front of the Manchester United superstar should comprise of Barcelona duo Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba as the full-backs with Sergio Ramos lining up at the heart of the defence alongside Sergi Gomez.
Sergio Busquets will start at the base of the three-man midfield for the home team on Saturday. With Thiago Alcantara not getting picked, Saul Niguez should occupy one of the midfield slots, while the other spot is likely to be taken up by Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos.
Marco Asensio and Rodrigo Moreno should offer pace and dynamism in the final third for Spain, starting on the right and left flanks respectively. Leading the line for La Roja against Norway should be Jaime Mata owing to his better form in comparison with Atletico Madrid’s Alvaro Morata.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Roberto, Gomez, Ramos, Alba; Ceballos, Busquets, Saul; Rodrigo, Mata, Asensio;
21-year-old midfielder Sander Berge misses out with an injury for Norway, while Mats Moller Daehli has been recalled. Bournemouth’s Joshua King, Fulham’s Stefan Johansen and Real Madrid prodigy Martin Odegaard (on loan at Vitesse) are some of the most notable names in the squad named by Lars Lagerback.
The Lions are likely to line up in a 4-4-2 formation with seasoned campaigner Rune Jarstein starting between the sticks. Omar Elabdelloui and Haitam Aleesami will take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides respectively. Havard Nordtveit should get the nod at the heart of the defence alongside Celtic mainstay Kristoffer Ajer. The defence will be in for a stern test against a dangerous Spain attack.
Captain Stefan Johansen will occupy one of the two midfield slots and look to act as the conduit between the two halves, with Ole Selnaes offering a defensive shield to his backline. Threat from the wide areas should come from Iver Fossum and Southampton winger Mohamed Elyounoussi.
Joshua King has 12 goals in 37 appearances for the Norwegian national team. He should take up one of the two slots in attack, with Ola Kamara likely to partner the Bournemouth striker against Spain.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Jarstein; Elabdelloui, Nordtveit, Ajer, Aleesami; Fossum, Selnaes, Johansen, Elyounoussi; King, Kamara;
- Spain have won four of their last six matches (L2). In those games, Luis Enrique’s men have scored 19 times while letting in eight goals, managing just two clean sheets.
- Norway lost just one of their ten fixtures in the 2018 calendar year – a 1-0 defeat to Bulgaria in the UEFA Nations League.
- Spain and Norway have clashed against each other on six occasions previously, with the former winning four matches, while the latter have come up trumps only once.
- The last meeting between the two teams came way back in November 2003, in which Spain ran out clear 3-0 winners.
Player to Watch
It has been quite a memorable campaign for the 30-year-old Jaime Mata as the striker has been spearheading Getafe’s push for a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot in the La Liga. In 25 appearances in the Spanish top-flight, the Spaniard has found the back of the net on 13 occasions, while also setting up 6 goals for his teammates.
Mata’s rich vein of form for Getafe has been rewarded with his first ever call-up for the Spanish national team. It has been quite the journey for the 30-year-old, who has spent most of his footballing career in the lower leagues in Spain and he will be aiming to mark the occasion with a maiden goal on his debut and fire his team to a win.
Spain 3-0 Norway
This Spain side has a new look to it, with Luis Enrique deciding to leave out a number of regulars, with the likes of Isco, Thiago, Koke and Diego Costa all not making the cut for the squad. Norway, on the other hand, have a settled look to their roster, with all the regulars fit and available for selection for manager Lars Lagerback.
Despite having not made it to the World Cup, Norway had a decent 2018, which was capped with a promotion in the UEFA Nations League. However, going up against Spain, even if it is a relatively new-look side, will be a whole new level of challenge for the Lions – a challenge that is likely to prove too much. We at The Hard Tackle are expecting Spain to romp home to an easy win on Saturday night.