The England vs Spain match (Tuesday 8pm) may just be a friendly, but for England Manager Gareth Southgate it is a chance to cement his position as the next permanent England Manager. However, if he thinks Spain are going to make it easy for him, he should take a look at the last few friendlies between the two teams.
The last match between them was in 2015 when Spain won 2-0, a repeat of the result in 2009, whilst Spain also came to Wembley in 2007 and walked away with a 1-0 win. England’s win 1-0 at home in 2011 offers some hope, as that result came at a time when Spain were the dominant force in world football, however both teams are barely recognisable from the two teams that lined-up that day.
Spain could have been forgiven for needing a few games to gel-together under new coach Julen Lopetegui, but that’s not been the case as they’ve recorded 4 wins and a draw in 5 games under his guidance, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one. Admittedly, 8 of those came against Liechtenstein, but they’ve also brushed aside Macedonia 4-0, Albania 2-0 and Belgium 2-0, whilst a 1-1 draw away in Italy is hardly a bad result.
Those results certainly look a lot better than England’s recent form. The Three Lions may not have conceded a goal in their 4 games against Scotland, Slovena, Malta and Slovakia, however it’s hard to see them stopping Spain scoring, whilst England’s lack of in-from strikers may mean Spain’s back-four are in for an easy night.
Both teams do have injury worries, as England will be without Ryan Bertrand, whilst the absence of Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane will may cause Southgate some problems. Jack Wilshere may be given another chance to show he can mix it with the best after an injury-free run with Bournemouth, whilst Jamie Vardy, Theo Walcott and Nathaniel Clyne will be expecting to feature at some point.
Spain are also missing a key-man in Diego Costa, but they have strength in depth to call upon, and the apparent gulf in class between the two teams is best highlighted by considering how many English players would get in the Spanish Squad – which is possibly none.
It’s not that England have a bad record in friendlies, winning 9 and drawing 4 of their last 15, but their defeat by Holland highlights just how vulnerable they are against the classier sides – and Spain look the value-bet at around 6/4.