Spain will be aiming to return to winning ways when they welcome Malta to Estadio Ramon de Carranza in a Group F clash on Friday.
Matchday 9 of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers continues on Friday, with nine matches on show. Group F leaders Spain will play a dead rubber on the day when they play hosts to bottom feeders of their group, Malta at Estadio Ramon de Carranza in Cadiz.
Spain have been on a roll in the qualifying phase for the 2020 UEFA European Championships. Yet to be beaten after the first eight round of fixtures (W6 D2), La Furia Roja have negotiated a change of guard at the managerial level rather comfortably, with Luis Enrique resigning in May due to personal reasons and replaced by Robert Moreno since.
Malta, on the other hand, have stayed true to nature in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, managing just one win in eight, a run of results which has left them bottom of Group F and out of contention for qualification. In fact, the Falcons have failed to score in each of their last seven games, and their next test is unlikely to make things easier for them.
The reverse fixture, played on Matchday 2 in Malta, ended in a straightforward 2-0 win for Spain, with Alvaro Morata scoring each of the goals. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Robert Moreno has made four changes to the squad he had picked for October’s international break, with Diego Llorente, Sergio Reguilon, Dani Ceballos and Luis Alberto being dropped. Dani Olmo has received his maiden Spain call-up and is in contention to make his international debut.
Also included in the squad, are Alvaro Morata and Paco Alcacer, who are back in the squad. But, the Spain head coach has lost the services of Rodrigo Moreno and Adama Traore, who was another player who was in line to earn his first international cap.
With a place at the UEFA Euro 2020 sealed, Moreno could look to inject some freshness into the team, as he starts sorting his squad for next summer’s finals. Pau Lopez is in contention to start in goal, but Kepa Arrizabalaga should keep hold of his place between the sticks.
Sergio Ramos is a certain starter in defence. And, the Spain captain could have 22-year-old central defender Pau Torres as his partner at the heart of the defence. Jesus Navas might get another chance to prove his credentials as a right-back, with Jose Gaya getting the nod on the left.
In midfield, Fabian Ruiz will continue his bid to cement his place in the squad, with the youngster set to provide the creative impetus in the middle of the park. Rodri could get a chance to impress ahead of Sergio Busquets, with Santi Cazorla, who has enjoyed a memorable last 12 months, completing the three-man unit.
Up ahead, the injury to Rodrigo leaves the striker’s slot open, with Morata, Alcacer and Gerard Moreno competing for one place. Gerard Moreno could get an opportunity against Malta, with Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo providing him company in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Navas, Ramos, Torres, Gaya; Cazorla, Rodri, Fabian Ruiz; Oyarzabal, Gerard Moreno, Olmo
Ray Farrugia has made a few alterations to the last iteration of the Maltese squad he had picked. The Malta head coach has left Andrew Hogg, Ferdinando Apap, Dexter Xuereb, Kurt Shaw and Jean Paul Farrugia out of his squad, while senior defender Steve Borg will not face Spain due to a suspension.
Borg is likely to be replaced by Jonathan Caruana, who will partner 33-year-old Andre Agius at the heart of Malta’s defence. Zach Muscat will line up as the visitors’ right-back, with Joseph Mbong starting on the opposite flank.
Meanwhile, Farrugia is likely to shuffle his side’s formation, lining them up in a 4-4-2, with Rowen Muscat moving into a more central role. The 28-year-old will be tasked with driving Malta forward, with Dunstan Vella holding the fort in front of the defence.
Young winger Juan Carlos Corbalan ought to line up on the right side of the midfield, with Luke Gambin being deployed on the left flank. Kyrian Nwoko is likely to lead the line for Malta, with captain Michael Mifsud playing off him in the strike partnership.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Bonello; Zach Muscat, Caruana, Agius, Mbong; Corbalan, Vella, Rowen Muscat, Gambin; Mifsud, Nwoko
- Spain and Malta will be locking horns against each other for the ninth time. In the eight previous meetings, La Furia Roja have been victorious on each occasion, conceding just four goals in the process.
- Spain have a record to forget in Cadiz, having managed to be on the right side of a result on just one instance (L3).
- Malta have won just one of their last 37 games across all competitions, a 2-1 win over Faroe Islands on Matchday 1 of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers (D5 L31).
- Since that win over Faroe Islands, Malta have lost each of their seven subsequent fixtures, failing to score in all of those games (conceded 17).
- Spain are unbeaten in 26 (W23 D3) European Championships and World Cup qualifiers, since a 2-1 loss in Slovakia in October 2014.
Player to Watch
Robert Moreno has a very settled squad at his disposal for the most part. But, some of the positions are up for grabs heading into next summer’s European Championships. Two such positions are the wide berths in attack, with no player exactly cementing his place on the flanks.
Dani Olmo, thus, has a golden opportunity being made available to him after being called up to the Spain squad for the very first time. With Marco Asensio out for the season and likely to miss next year’s tournament, Olmo has the chance to nail down his place in Moreno’s side, with the next couple of games set to determine his fate.
Spain 3-0 Malta
Malta have, quite simply, been the whipping boys of Group F of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers. Spain, on the other hand, have cruised their way to clinching qualification for the competition next year.
But, with plenty of players having a point to prove and place in the squad to cement, Spain could give Malta a tough evening in Cadiz. Expect Dani Olmo and others to make a splash, with the hosts being triumphing comfortably. The Hard Tackle predicts Roberto Moreno & co. to return to winning ways with a 3-0 victory.