Spain will be aiming to extend their winning streak in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers when they travel to Oslo for their Group F encounter against Norway.
Spain will be looking to take a step closer to sealing their place in the UEFA Euro 2020 when they lock horns against Norway in their Group F qualifying fixture at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo on Saturday night.
Spain have made the perfect start to their qualifying campaign, winning all six of their fixtures so far, which sees them sitting comfortably at the top of their group. La Roja defeated Romania (2-1) and Faroe Islands (4-0) during the last international break and another win in Oslo this weekend would all but confirm a place in the next summer’s tournament for Robert Moreno’s side.
Norway, on the other hand, are fourth in the group, with 9 points on board from six matches. They are unbeaten in the Qualifiers since their opening day loss to Spain, with their latest match ending in a 1-1 draw against Sweden. With just two points separating them from second-placed Sweden, Lars Lagerback’s side will be aiming to cause an upset on Saturday to make their way up the table.
The last time these two sides clashed in March, on Matchday 1 of the Qualifiers, Spain defeated Norway 2-1. And ahead of the upcoming fixture in Oslo, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Norway will be without teenage hotshot Erling Haaland, who withdrew from the squad with an injury. Also missing for the hosts are Ruben Gabrielsen and Andre Hansen, with Mohamed Elyounoussi, Sigurd Rosted and Sondre Rossbach being roped in as replacements. Experienced defender Tore Reginiussen is an injury doubt.
Lagerback has largely used the 4-4-2 formation during the qualifying campaign, but switched to a 4-4-1-1 in the last game against Sweden. And he is likely to stick with the same shape on Saturday, with 20-year-old sensation Martin Odegaard set to operate behind Bournemouth striker Josh King in attack.
35-year-old Rune Jarstein is the most experienced player in the squad currently and should start between the sticks for Norway against Spain. He will seek all the protection he can get from a back four comprising of Omar Elabdellaoui and Haitam Aleesami as the full-backs, with Havard Nordtveidt and Even Hovland as the centre-backs.
Captain Stefan Johansen, who scored in the draw against Sweden last month, is likely to line up on the right side of the midfield four, while Ole Selnaes is expected to keep his place in the side on the opposite flank. Partnering up in the middle of the park to thwart Spain from building up effectively will be Markus Henriksen and 21-year-old Sander Berge.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Jarstein; Elabdellaoui, Nordtveidt, Hovland, Aleesami; Johansen, Henriksen, Berge, Selnaes; Odegaard; King
Manager Robert Moreno, who took over the job from Luis Enrique and led the team to wins in his first two assignments last month, has named three uncapped players in the squad, with Pau Torres, Sergio Reguilon and Gerard Moreno getting picked.
Dani Ceballos and Fabian Ruiz missed training on Wednesday, but are fit and available for selection. However, Spain will be without experienced full-backs Jordi Alba and Jose Gaya along with Atletico Madrid’s Mario Hermoso, who hasn’t been called up by the manager, while Paco Alcacer is also not part of the squad.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is the first-choice between the sticks for Spain ahead of David de Gea and should start in Oslo. Dani Carvajal is a shoe-in at right-back for the visitors, while Juan Bernat is likely to get the nod at left-back ahead of Reguilon. Captain Sergio Ramos is expected to partner up with Diego Llorente at the heart of the Spain defence.
Vice-captain Sergio Busquets is likely to pip Manchester City star Rodri for the starting spot at the base of the three-man midfield for La Roja. Saul Niguez should occupy one of the spots in the middle of the park, with Ruiz expected to complete the trident. In Thiago Alcantara, Ceballos and Santi Cazorla, the manager has plenty of quality options to chop and change from if need be.
In attack, Rodrigo Moreno is likely to move into a central role in Alcacer’s absence, while Mikel Oyarzabal is expected to slot in on the left side of the attacking trident. Pablo Sarabia could get the nod for the final spot in Spain’s attack against Norway.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Carvajal, Llorente, Ramos, Bernat; Ruiz, Busquets, Saul; Sarabia, Rodrigo, Oyarzabal
- Saturday’s clash in Oslo will be the eighth time Spain and Norway will be facing each other. La Roja have the clear upper-hand in head to head records, having come out on top in five of the previous seven meetings (D1 L1).
- The last time Norway defeated Spain was in June 2000, a 1-0 win in the UEFA Euro 2000. Interestingly, that was the last time that the Lovene won a game in a major tournament. In fact, Norway have never qualified to a major tournament since 2000.
- Since their 3-2 loss to Croatia in the UEFA Nations League in November last year, Spain have won all of their seven subsequent fixtures, managing to keep four clean sheets in the process.
- Norway have lost just one of their last ten fixtures, dating back to October last year, winning five of those. Incidentally, the defeat came against Spain in March earlier this year.
- Spain have scored 17 goals in their six games in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, while conceding just three. Norway, on the other hand, have netted 11 times and have let in eight.
Player to Watch
Saturday will be a momentous occasion for Spain captain Sergio Ramos. Should he feature against Norway, the 33-year-old will become the most capped player for the Spain national team. Currently on 167 appearances, the defender will be overtaking former Real Madrid teammate Iker Casillas, who featured 167 times before retiring in 2016.
One of the best centre-backs in the game, the 33-year-old will be hoping to celebrate the milestone by putting in a solid performance at the back to help his team to a win that would take them a step closer to the finals next summer.
Norway 1-2 Spain
Norway have shown mettle so far in the qualifying campaign and come into the game on a five-match unbeaten run. In Josh King and Martin Odegaard, they have players who can pose a few questions to the visitors and will be buoyed by the home support. But, Erling Haaland’s absence will be a blow, given the form that the teenager has been in for his club Red Bull Salzburg.
Spain have won all their qualifying fixtures so far and have shown no signs of slowing down, despite the managerial change earlier this year. Given the quality that they boast in the squad, La Roja should be able to deal with anything that their hosts will throw at them at Oslo this weekend. And hence, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting a another win for Sergio Ramos & co.