Tuesday 15th November. 8PM. ITV 1
The final international match of the calendar year sees England host Spain at Wembley, and it should offer a glimpse of exactly where the Three Lions stand after what has been an immensely difficult 2016 on and off the field.
Come on England!
Southgate Set For Full-Time Role
Friday’s win over Scotland wasn’t as comfortable as the 3-0 scoreline may suggest, but it should be enough to land Gareth Southgate the manager’s job on a permanent basis. The 46-year-old has said he wants an answer within a month and, in truth, Tuesday’s result is unlikely to have much of an impact.
Assuming Southgate will be the long-term boss, this is the perfect opportunity to gauge where his side currently ranks, which is why we might not see the wholesale changes often seen in friendlies. Meanwhile, Harry Kane’s return to Spurs means that there’s an even greater chance of seeing an unchanged XI.
For all their problems, England have only lost twice in 2016. However, they do struggle against superior teams that keep possession while Spain dealt Roy Hodgson’s men a reality check last November with a comfortable 2-0 win in Alicante. Despite sitting top of the World Cup qualifying group, confidence is low and a similar story may develop here.
It’s not the most important game in the grand scheme of things, but Southgate would love a win.
Spain To Cause More Pain
Unfortunately for England, a win is only likely if Spain take their foot off the pedal. Under normal circumstances, that would be a very real possibility. However, new manager Lopetegui will not want to surrender the momentum built up over the last few months.
Even with Diego Costa missing through injury, Spain pose ample threat through the likes of David Silva, Alvaro Morata and co. Spain have adapted well to their new manager too, scoring 17 goals in five matches and failing to win just once – in a 1-1 away draw against Italy.
Spain will be aware of England’s defensive frailties, and can take advantage, even if the tempo isn’t quite as intense as a competitive fixture. Defensively, they have arguably the world’s best goalkeeper in David De Gea, although he may not be called upon very often as the hosts could well struggle to see much of the ball.
The visitors are hardly desperate for a win. But if they dominate and dictate as they can, an away victory is the likely outcome. Right now, though, that could be exactly what England need before regrouping for what will hopefully be a far smoother 2017.
England v Spain Betting
Even with home advantage on their side, England enter the clash as pre-match underdogs at 19/10 with Bet365 while Spain are favourites at 7/5. The draw is available at 9/4.
Spain don’t always take friendlies as seriously as they possibly could, but they should be up for this one at Wembley. Meanwhile, Lopetegui will be eager to remain unbeaten since taking charge.
If Spain keep possession like they could, England could be set for another reality check, just as they was this time last year. And if they don’t see the ball, they’re unlikely to score either.
England may have kept a clean sheet against Scotland, but that was due to the away side’s inability to convert chances. If the same opportunities are presented to Spain, the Three Lions will be punished.
Spain are unlikely to go for the jugular, but scoring twice is well within their remit.