Croatia pose major test for Luis Enrique's Spain

Thursday, 2018-11-15 06:28:54
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Spain embarrassed World Cup finalists Croatia with a stunning six-goal masterclass of spectacular finishing last September. (Photo: Reuters)
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The Spanish national team faces an important UEFA Nations League tie away to Croatia on Thursday as they look to assure that they finish top of their qualifying group.

Things looked to be progressing well for Spain coach Luis Enrique after wins in his first three games, but a shock 3-2 defeat to England in their last Nations League match has left them with work to do in Croatia.

The Spanish need a win to assure they finish top of the group and the Croatians are likely to prove tougher opposition than the team they beat 6-0 in September.

Two months ago, the beaten World Cup finalists looked to be still suffering a hangover from their summer achievements, but they should have recovered since then.

The defeat to England was a dose of reality for the Spanish and perhaps one of the reasons why coach Enrique decided to recall left back Jordi Alba after leaving the Barcelona defender out of his first two squads.

Alba's absence was arguably the talking point of those squads but both he and Enrique have been keen to play down any talk of a bad relationship. Given the importance of Thursday's game, Alba is likely to go into the starting XI.

Nacho Fernandez and Dani Carvajal are out through injury, so Cesar Azpilicueta and Inigo Martinez look likely to join Sergio Ramos in defence.

Meanwhile Saul, Sergio Busquets and Isco look certainties in midfield, while Enrique will have to decide whether to keep faith with Valencia's out of touch Rodrigo in attack, or to opt to give chances to Iago Aspas and Alvaro Morata, who has recently started scoring again for Chelsea.

Xinhua