Spain will look to continue their perfect start to the 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign as they face Malta on Tuesday.
Luis Enrique’s men started their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign on a positive note, securing a 2-1 win over Norway. But, they will face an equally strong challenge when they travel to Ta’Qali National Stadium to face Malta on Tuesday.
Spain last met Malta back in 1997 and this will be the seventh ever meeting between the two sides, with La Roja winning all of the previous matches. In fact, the European giants recorded one of the biggest victories in a competitive game when they beat Malta 12-1 in a European qualifying game back in 1983.
Fast forward to present day, Spain are playing an excellent brand of football under Luis Enrique and that was rather evident in their win over Norway, though the scoreline might suggest otherwise. However, they do certainly need to make full use of their chances if they are to thwart a Malta side that are coming on the back of a 2-1 win over Faroe Islands.
The narrow win over the minnows was Malta’s first win a competitive game since 2013. But, it will surely give them confidence as they look to cause an upset against one of the tournament’s favourites this midweek.
And, here at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the sides of their exciting match-up in the European Championship 2020 qualifying round on Tuesday.
Team News & Tactics
Ray Farrugia’s side will miss out on the services of experienced defender Andrei Agius, who was sent off in the win over the Faroe Islands and will thus, be suspended against Spain this week. He will be replaced by Zach Muscat, but we could expect Farrugia to revert to a five at the back formation against the mighty Spanish attack.
That means Muscat will likely be partnered by Jonathan Caruana and Steve Borg, who will shift into the centre-back slot, paving the way for Joseph Mbong to occupy the right-back slot. Joseph Zerafa will be deployed on the opposite flank and will look to keep out the dangerous Rodrigo.
With Farrugia likely to employ a five-man defensive backline, Rowen Muscat could be relegated to the bench, although the trusted midfield duo of Paul Fenech and Matthew Guillaumier should both retain their places at the base of the midfield.
Both Fenech and Guillaumier will be partnered by the wide-midfield duo of Juan Carlos Corbalan and Kyrian Nwoko. The wide duo will look to whip in crosses and provide additional support to lone striker Michael Mifsud, who might be on the only player to be given a fully-fledged attacking role by coach Farrugia this week.
Henry Bonello will start in goal and will expect a busy evening against the mighty Spanish attack.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Bonello; Mbong, Borg, Muscat, Caruana, Zerafa; Corbalan, Fenech, Guillaumier, Nwoko; Mifsud
Luis Enrique has not been dealt with any fresh injury-related absences this week, meaning he will have the privilege of choosing from a fully fledged Spanish squad.
And the former Barcelona manager will seize this opportunity to rotate his squad against Malta, with Sergi Roberto likely to come in place of Jesus Navas in the right-back position, while Jose Gaya will replace Jordi Alba on the opposite flank.
The central defensive pairing will likely remain the same, with Sergio Ramos leading the defence alongside Iago Martinez. Ramos’ header in the 71st minute proved to be the winner against Norway and the Real Madrid star will be hoping for a similar performance this week.
Dani Ceballos is likely to keep in place in midfield alongside Saul Niguez. Both the players will operate in advanced roles and will look to provide the creativity in the middle of the park. They will be provided defensive cover by Sergio Busquets, who will be deployed at the base of Spain’s three-man midfield.
Alvaro Morata could once again spearhead the Spanish attack on Tuesday, looking to impress Enrique. He will be partnered by the wide-duo of Rodrigo and Iker Muniain, who is likely to replace Marco Asensio in the left-wing slot.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Roberto, Ramos, Martinez, Gaya; Ceballos, Busquets, Niguez; Rodrigo, Morata, Muniain
- Both sides have met six times previously, with Spain winning every single time they have faced Malta.
- Malta’s 2-1 victory over Faroe Islands on Saturday was their first win in a competitive game since June 2013.
- Spain recorded one of their biggest ever victories, crushing Malta 12-1 in a Euro qualifying game back in 1983.
- The Red Fury have lost only one game away from home since June 2016.
- Malta have conceded 28 goals in their games against the Spanish national football team – an average of 4.66 per game.
Player to Watch
Spain are playing with a bit more tempo under Luis Enrique and have squashed aside the classic possession-heavy football that has produced very little in recent tournaments.
This could benefit Alvaro Morata, who has already netted three goals upon his arrival at Wanda Metropolitano in January. Atletico Madrid’s direct style of football has allowed Morata to become much more expressive in the final third without having to rely on the supply of his fellow attackers.
And the former Chelsea attacker will be hoping for a similar outcome against Malta as he aims to break his scoring duck with Spain this week. His clever movements and sharp finishing will surely cause terror for the opposition defence, thus making him the player worth looking forward to in this contest.
Malta 0-3 Spain
Malta will need to make full use of their opportunities if they are to cause an upset against this Spanish side, who have already shown a few defensive cracks. But, given the stark difference between the quality of individuals between the two sides, it is unlikely that the hosts will be able to breach the opposition defence. Thus, we expect a 3-0 win for the visitors.