Euro 2020: Enrigue’s fresh looking Spain have a lot to prove

Long over are Spain’s glory days of 2008-2012, where they lifted two European Championships and a World Cup.

2018’s shock exit to hosts Russia in the round of 16 was the end of the road for veterans Andres Iniesta, David Silva, and Gerard Pique. The squad has undergone a period of transition since then under Luis Enrique, the former Barca boss was appointed immediately after the World Cup. They do not have the easiest of groups, with Poland, Sweden, and Slovakia all capable of an upset. With issues at goalkeeper and minus leader and captain Sergio Ramos it could prove a difficult summer for Enrique’s side.

Group E: SPAIN, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia
Manager: Luis Enrique
Odds (PP): 7/1
Recent Tournaments: World Cup 2018 (round of 16), Euro 2016 (round of 16).
FIFA World Ranking: 6th

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Key Man

Koke. With talismanic captain Sergio Ramos omitted, Spain are without a natural leader. The veteran Sergio Busquets is not guaranteed a start so it will be up to midfield general Koke, who just led Atletico to a first La Liga title since 2014, to take on the leadership responsibility in the Spain side. His doggedness and technical ability in midfield will be crucial to driving La Roja forward, allowing their talented forwards to thrive.

The Squad

Luis Enrique has named just 24 players in his final squad, claiming the 26 allowed by UEFA would be too large and disrupt things in the Spanish camp.

Bilbao’s Unai Simon is named and is likely to start in goal ahead of the out-of-sorts David De Gea. Also travelling is Brighton’s Robert Sanchez who enjoyed a good season, replacing club veteran Matt Ryan.

Right back is an issue with the injury plagued Dani Carvajal absent once more. Sporting Lisbon’s Pedro Porro, on loan from Man City, was called up in March after an impressive season in Portugal but he too has been ruled out through injury after sustaining a muscle injury three weeks ago.

Atletico Madrid midfielder, and often second striker, Marcos Llorente has been named as a defender and is expected to slot in at right back, as he did in March’s qualifiers. Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who has not played for Spain since 2018, was also named.

Centre-back also poses some difficulties. Ramos was omitted due to ongoing fitness issues and lack of minutes but there is a significant drop off between him and the next best defenders.

Man City’s Aymeric Laporte is included after switching his allegiance from France, but has lost his place at City to a resurgent John Stones. Also selected are Villareal’s Pau Torres, Leeds Diego Llorente and Man City’s Barca bound defender Eric Garcia, who Enrique seems to favour despite him barely featuring for City all season.Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez was harshly omitted after a good season, he also can play right or left back.

Jordi Alba, back to his brilliant best this season with 5 goals and an impressive 15 assists, is included. His Spain days looked to be over until his form earned him a recall in March. Valencia’s Jose Gaya also makes the squad, pipping Spurs Sergio Reguilon.

The midfield includes veteran Sergio Busquets and Man City’s Rodri, who will challenge each other for the holding midfield berth. Koke, Thiago, Napoli’s Fabian Ruiz and Barca youngster Pedri are also named. Busquet’s has since tested positive for COVID-19 and could miss the first two games, with Rodri now very likely to start.

In attack Alvaro Morata and Villareal’s Gerard Moreno will compete to lead the line. Morata has performed well for Spain of late but Moreno’s 30 goals and 7 assists this season make him difficult to ignore.

Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres – who scored a hattrick against Germany in November will battle it out for the wide positions, while Wolves Adama Traore and PSG’s Pablo Sarabia are also selected.

One to Watch

Pedri. The 18-year-old has enjoyed a good breakout campaign at Barcelona and is now a regular starter in Koeman’s midfield. His form earned him a first Spain call-up in March, where he started two of the three games. He is now right in contention to start at the Euro’s which would cap off a brilliant season for the youngster. Blessed with technical elegance and dribbling, he fits right into the Spanish midfield and it certainly will not be his last appearance at a major tournament.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), David de Gea (Manchester United), Robert Sanchez (Brighton)

Defenders: Jose Gaya (Valencia), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Diego Llorente (Leeds), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Pedri (Barcelona), Thiago (Liverpool), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Fabian (Napoli), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig)

Forwards: Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traore (Wolves), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Pablo Sarabia (PSG)

The Author

Daragh Searing

Student and sports fanatic, aged 19. I availed of the extra time on my hands during the pandemic to get into sportswriting, something I've always had strong interest in. Man United fan but also a keen follower of Serie A & European football. Hoping to pursue a career in sportswriting, with Soccer and Rugby my areas of expertise. email: searingdaragh9@gmail.com

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