Spain will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start to the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers when they take on Romania in Bucharest on Thursday.
The first international break of the season is here and teams in Europe will turn their attention back to the pressing matter at hand – reaching the UEFA Euro 2020 group stages. The marquee Group F action sees leaders Spain make the trip to Bucharest to face Romania at Arena Nationala on Thursday night.
Romania did not get off to the best of starts to their UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers campaign, with Sweden handing them a 2-1 loss. But, the Tricolorii have since made amends, winning two of their subsequent three games handsomely (D1).
This run of results has left Cosmin Contra’s men third on the Group F standings, separated from second placed Sweden only due to their head-to-head record. Spain, on the other hand, have been on a roll since the disappointing end to their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign.
The start to life under Luis Enrique had gone off to a largely steady start, but the head coach had to tender his resignation due to personal problems. His assistant, Roberto Moreno replaced Enrique at the helm, and under his tutelage, Spain have won each of the three games they have played.
Ahead of the latest fixtures, Moreno has said that he would happily step aside if Enrique ever decided to return to take charge of the Spanish national side. But, for now, Moreno is set to take charge of La Furia Roja for the first time since being appointed as the permanent head coach.
Romania and Spain last clashed in March 2016 in a friendly contest, playing out a drab goalless draw. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier.
Team News & Tactics
Cosmin Contra will be without two of the players he had picked in his original squad for the upcoming two fixtures. While Nicusor Bancu has had to pull out of the squad altogether due to injury, key star Alexandru Chipciu is unavailable for the visit of Spain due to a one-match ban and will be back in contention against Malta.
The 30-year-old was sent off for two bookable offences last time out against Malta. And, the absence of Chipciu and Bancu will force Contra to field a new look full-back pairing from the last outing. In place of Chipciu, Romario Benzar will likely be deployed in the right-back slot, while Alin Tosca is expected to replace Bancu.
At the heart of the Romania defence, Vlad Chiriches should be partnered by Ionut Nedelcearu, completing the back four that provide cover to Ciprian Tatarusanu. Meanwhile, Contra will line his side up in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation in all likelihood, with the midfield double pivot tasked with stemming the flow of the Spain attack.
In the middle of the park, Alexandru Maxim is expected to sit alongside Paul Anton, with the duo forming an energetic partnership. As far as attack is concerned, George Puscas should lead the line for Romania, with Claudiu Keseru playing off him. Flanking Keseru, should be Gheorghe Grozav and Ciprian Deac.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Benzar, Nedelcearu, Chiriches, Tosca; Maxim, Anton; Deac, Keseru, Grozav; Puscas
The squad that Robert Moreno has picked for the first international break of the 2019-20 season has a number of notable absentees. While the Spain head coach has had to leave out Marco Asensio and Isco due to their respective injuries, the absence of Iago Aspas and Inigo Martinez raises a few eyebrows.
The Spain squad seems to be lacking players to play out wide in the three-man attacking trio, with Suso and Mikel Oyarzabal the only natural options. Hence, the pair pick themselves to flank the central striker, who should be Paco Alcacer, with Rodrigo being an option on the bench.
The midfield department presents Moreno with the choicest of options, with Sergio Busquets and Rodri contesting for the holding midfield spot. Against Romania, Rodri is likely to get the nod, with a number of youngsters likely to be trusted by the Spain boss.
Saul Niguez should be one of the two box-to-box midfielders, with the Dani Parejo and Fabian Ruiz vying for the other spot – Ruiz is expected to be preferred on Thursday. At the back, it is likely that Moreno will favour experience over youth, so as to form a solid defensive line.
As a result, the likes of Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba pick themselves. Ramos’s partner at the heart of the Spain defence should be Mario Hermoso, who ought to turn out for the fourth time for the national side. In goal, Moreno has preferred Kepa Arrizabalaga to David de Gea thus far and the Chelsea custodian should start against Romania.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Carvajal, Ramos, Hermoso, Alba; Saul, Rodri, Fabian Ruiz; Suso, Paco Alcacer, Oyarzabal
- Spain have a modest head-to-head record against Romania, having won five and lost as many games in 16 meetings (D6).
- In fact, La Furia Roja are yet to win in six matches in Romania (D3 L3).
- Romania have lost just one of their last fourteen matches across all competitions, recording nine victories in the process (D4).
- Robert Moreno has a 100 percent record in-charge of Spain, having overseen three wins in as many games he has taken charge of thus far.
- Spain are on a 12-game winning streak in UEFA Euro Qualifiers, keeping a whopping ten clean sheets in this run.
Player to Watch
Spain have been nearly impossible to stop over the last one year or so, with the attack clicking, both under Luis Enrique as well as Robert Moreno. If the visitors are to be stopped in their tracks, Romania will need some inspirational performances at the back.
To that end, it is likely that Vlad Chiriches will be looked upon to provide the said inspiration. One of the most experienced players in the side, the centre-back will have his task cut out, keeping Paco Alcacer at bay. But, if he can help keep Spain quite for long periods, chances are Romania will have the opportunity to spring a surprise.
Romania 1-3 Spain
The loss of Luis Enrique so early into his reign as the Spain head coach could have been troublesome. But, in appointing his former assistant Robert Moreno, the Spanish federation has ensured a smooth transition. La Furia Roja are now scoring goals by the bagful and should pose a major threat against Romania.
Having said that, Spain’s defensive problems should give Cosmin Contra’s men a way into the game and pave the way for an exciting encounter. In the end, however, the visitors should have more than enough in their tank to get past the hosts. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Spain to stretch their winning run and take a step closer to qualifying for next summer’s European Championships.