Spain will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways when they take on minnows Georgia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on Sunday evening.
Following the disappointing start to their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign, Spain will be hoping for a course-correction when they lock horns with a lowly Georgia side in a Group B encounter at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi on Sunday.
Having ended the last year on a thumping note with a 6-0 win over Germany, a lot was expected from Spain ahead of their opening qualifier against Greece. However, La Roja underwhelmed greatly and were held to a 1-1 draw, which leaves them third in the group, two points behind leaders Sweden. A win could put Luis Enrique’s men at the top, provided the Swedes drop points against Kosovo.
Georgia, on the other hand, kickstarted their qualifying campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Sweden and as a result, are seated at the bottom of the group. Manager Willy Sagnol, who took charge of the team for the first time against the Swedes will be hoping for a better outcome on Sunday, although given the quality of their opponents, a drubbing could very well be on the cards.
The last time these two clashed, Spain were handed a shock 1-0 loss in a friendly encounter back in 2016. And ahead of their latest meeting this weekend in Tbilisi, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Georgia’s lineup against Sweden bore a much different look to the one that had taken the field in their last game last year vs Estonia. And Willy Sagnol will look to continue to build a team in his image, with the Crusaders expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation once again in front of 35-year-old goalkeeper Giorgi Loria.
The manager is unlikely to tinker much with the side that narrowly lost to Sweden with Guram Kashia and Lasha Dvali forming the centre-back pairing once again. But there could be a change at right-back with Grigol Chabradze making way for the more experienced Otar Kakabadze while Guram Giorbelidze continues at left-back.
Captain Jaba Kankava ought to hold on to his place in the midfield double pivot, where he, along with Nika Kvekveskiri, will offer the Georgia defence protection from the Spanish midfield runners while looking to disrupt their rhythm. Giorgi Aburjania ought to take up the No. 10 slot, although he will look to sit behind the ball and offer defensive support more often than not.
Saba Lobzhanidze and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia ought to be the two wide players who will try and create opportunities for the central striker who should be Giorgi Kvilitaia.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Loria; Kakabadze, Kashia, Dvali, Giorbelidze; Kvekveskiri, Kankava; Lobzhanidze, Aburjania, Kvaratskhelia; Kvilitaia
Gerard Moreno missed the last game against Greece with fitness problems but could be available on Sunday while Sergio Ramos might not be risked as his game-time continues to be managed due to an injury issue. But, manager Luis Enrique is certain to make a few changes to the side that was held last time out.
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) March 27, 2021
Unai Simon ought to man the goal once again for La Roja ahead of David de Gea and the uncapped Robert Sanchez. Pedro Porro should make his debut at right-back after Enrique fielded Marcos Llorente out of position against Greece. Jordi Alba should replace Jose Gaya at left-back while Eric Garcia and Inigo Martinez pair up at the centre.
Sergio Busquets could also get a game here at the expense of Rodri. The veteran star will sit at the base of the Spanish football and help assert their control over the proceedings. The creative influence from the centre ought to come from Thiago Alcantara while there might be a first start for Barcelona starlet Pedri in midfield on Sunday.
Alvaro Morata, who was one of the few positives for Spain against Greece, should spearhead the attack again while Ferran Torres should get another chance on the right flank. But a change could be on the cards on the left-hand side with Mikel Oyarzabal coming in to replace Dani Olmo.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Simon; Porro, Garcia, Martinez, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Pedri; Torres, Morata, Oyarzabal
- This will be just the fourth meeting between the two nations. Two of the three previous matches have been won by Spain, with Georgia winning one, which was their most recent fixture in 2016.
- Spain have lost just one of their last 20 games (W12 D7), with that defeat coming against Ukraine in October last year.
- Georgia are without a win in their last six games, drawing and losing three matches apiece. Their last victory came in October last year against Belarus.
- La Roja have won just one of their last five fixtures (D3 L1), keeping a clean sheet in just one of those matches.
- Having won eight of his 10 games in charge of the Spanish national team during his first stint (L2), Luis Enrique has led the team to just three wins in his last nine matches since returning to the job in November 2019 (D5 L1).
Player to Watch
A starter at Barcelona and called up for Spain at 18?
Pedri: "The most important thing is to be natural. On the field, be yourself because if you do what you like and have fun everything will be better." pic.twitter.com/YlUhfKey9H
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 23, 2021
It has been a season to remember for the young Pedri, who from being a youth player for Barcelona, has gone on to become a mainstay in the middle of the park at Camp Nou and has earned his first-ever call-up to the Spanish national team. The 18-year-old came on as a substitute to make his international debut vs Greece and could in line for his first start on Sunday.
Against a team that could employ a deep defensive block, someone like Pedri, with his ability to make line-breaking passes and runs, could become key for La Roja. The rising Barcelona star is certainly one to watch out for when Spain take the field in Tbilisi.
Georgia 0-2 Spain
Georgia showed signs of encouragement in the game against Sweden but are still adapting to a new manager who has just had one game in charge. And Spain will be a big step up from Sweden in terms of the level of opposition. Luis Enrique’s men may have fumbled last time out but the quality of players that they possess should prove too much for the hosts on Sunday. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable win for La Roja.