So, is everybody clear on what the Nations League actually is? No? Well, the more explanations are written, the more confusing it actually becomes – focus on this instead: England play Spain at Wembley this afternoon and, after a successful World Cup, Gareth Southgate’s side return home in an attempt to build further bridges with their public.
• Southgate will be without Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana, both of whom have had to withdraw through injury.
• Jordan Pickford is expected to keep his place in goal, in spite of Marcus Bettinelli being called up.
• New Spanish coach Luis Enrique pulled a major surprise with his first squad, leaving out Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba. Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso is expected to start on the left of
• Diego Costa has withdrawn from the squad for personal reasons.
• In spite of his sending off for Manchester United at Burnley, Marcus Rashford is expected to replace Sterling at the top of England’s formation.
• Having been recalled at the expense of Ashley Young, Luke Shaw looks set to win a first England cap in over a year.
• Joe Gomez is also expected to feature, having been outstanding for Liverpool so far this season.
• England are unbeaten in their last two home games against the Spanish.
• Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and David Silva have now all retired from international duty.
• England have concerns about captain Harry Kane. He scored six in six at the World Cup, but – in spite of scoring twice domestically – has seen his shot volume decline dramatically
since recovering from injury earlier in the year.
• One of the challenges faced by Enrique is the construction of a new centre-back partnership. With Piqeu gone, he’s expected to pair long-time incumbent Sergio Ramos with club mate
Nacho, who typically splits time between centre-half and full-back for his club.
• Thiago Alcantara, Saul and Sergio Busquets will comprise a new midfield-three.
• In spite of his year-long club slump, Alvaro Morata is expected to start up front, most likely as a part of a three-man forward line between Real Madrid pair Isco and Marco Asensio.
• England averaged 13.4 shots per game at the World Cup, not including penalties.
• They also enjoyed an average of 53.4% of possession in games, typically completing their passes with an accuracy of 85.3%.
• They did also allow a worrying 11.7 shots per game on their own goal.
• Spain actually enjoyed an average of 69.2% of the ball in Russia, but that was really part of their problem; one of the interesting aspects of Luis Enrique’s reign will be as to
whether it leads to a stylistic evolution.
• They also managed 18 shots per game, but scored just 7 times in their matches.
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