With just four days of preparation after a strenuous season and only ten days before Spain opens in the Eurocup against Sweden at La Cartuja in Seville, Luis Enrique’s renewed team will be tested this Friday at the Wanda Metropolitano against no less than Portugal and with about 15,000 spectators in the stands. A complicated rival because he is the current continental champion, he enjoys a predator like Cristiano Ronaldo in his ranks and always faces the duels against the neighboring country with extra motivation.
First time to see Luis Enrique’s ideas embodied on the ground, who surprised with a young list of 24 chosen for the European Championship without the emblematic captain Sergio Ramos and in which he included names such as that of the French defender, recently nationalized Spanish by the Council of Ministers, Aymeric Laporte. «I think we are in the group of favorites that nobody would rule out. Now we have to endorse it on the pitch », insists Luis Enrique optimistically.
Spain faces the European champion after six games without losing but with lights and shadows. Although he keeps in his memory the good memory of the 6-0 endorsed by Germany in the Nations League last November, in his last games he has suffered more. In the qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup held in the last window of March, La Roja did not go beyond the draw (1-1) with Greece and beat Georgia by a tight 2-1, before beating Kosovo with authority by 3 -1.
“It is impossible to always win 6-0, all teams compete and anyone can defeat you. Winning like this is not the reality because we have to do things well in order to win any game, “warns Koke, who returns to the Red and White fiefdom with the national team.
A very close fight is expected against a rival against whom Spain drew without goals in the last round, a friendly held in Lisbon in September 2020. Without Ramos and without Athletic defender Iñigo Martínez, who resigned to play for the national team claiming that he was not “one hundred percent physically or mentally to compete”, Villarreal center-back Pau Torres will play a central role in the defensive axis. Along with him, Luis Enrique could choose Laporte, despite the fact that the City center-back has done little this season.
Doubts in the goal, especially because Unai Simón, starter in the last games, and David de Gea, are not enjoying their best moment, and for the right-back, without a specialist and with Marcos Llorente and César Azpilicueta competing for a position . In the center of the field, great competition between Sergio Busquets and Rodrigo Hernández. In attack, it remains to be seen if the Asturian coach will place together Álvaro Morata, a striker with a more classic profile, and Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno, the best Spanish scorer in the League.
Portugal have only lost one of their last eleven games, adding official and friendlies. Cristiano Ronaldo, author of a triplet against Spain that sealed a draw ‘in extremis’ on the first day of the World Cup in Russia, is their great threat. At 36 years old, the ex-Madridista maintains the undisputed leadership in a group of Fernando Santos that still has many of the heavyweights that five years ago raised the title in France, such as defenders Pepe, José Fonte or midfielders William Carvalho or Joao Moutinho.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who this time will not have to face his friend Sergio Ramos, has ended a bad season for Juve as the top scorer in Serie A with 29 goals. Expectation also to see the performance of the young Joao Félix, eager to vindicate himself in Wanda after the discreet role played with Cholo Simeone, but also a regular substitute with the Portuguese.
Audience and World Cup bid
It is a preparation meeting but with incentives beyond the purely sports. It will be the first major football event with the public during the pandemic in Madrid, the region with the most deaths from covid-19 in Spain. The Government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso authorized a maximum capacity of up to 30%, equivalent to 22,500 spectators, although they will be less. They must wear the mask at all times, they will not be able to smoke, eat or drink in the stands and they will have time slots to access the stadium and avoid crowds.
The duel will also serve to make visible the firm institutional support of both countries for their joint candidacy to organize the 2030 World Cup. It will be chaired by King Felipe VI, accompanied by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of the Portuguese Republic, Pedro Sánchez and the first Portuguese minister, Antonio Costa. Both federations will carry out a joint act in the run-up to formalize just when the 100th anniversary of the first confrontation between the two teams has passed.
Unai Simón, Marcos Llorente, Pau Torres, Laporte, Jordi Alba, Pedri, Busquets, Koke, Ferran Torres, Morata and Gerard Moreno.
Rui Patricio, Cancelo, José Fonte, Rúben Dias, Guerreiro, Rúben Neves, Danilo, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Craig Pawson (England).
19:30 h. Metropolitan Wanda.