Spain go into this World Cup Qualifier joint top of Group I with France on seven points from three games. Their opponents tonight sit bottom of the group having played a game less but already World Cup qualification looks beyond them. It also gives Spain a chance to get three points in the bag and maybe even rotate the squad slightly ahead of Tuesday night’s top of the table decider away to France.
Spain will most likely be without Xavi for the game at El Molinón in Gijon due to injury and the big question is whether or not the Barcelona midfielder will start against France. In his place could step a number of talented players including the likes of Cazorla and Fabregas. In goal there is the question of who will replace the injured Casillas, with Reina, Valdes and De Gea all in the squad and all possible starters. David Villa is likely to start up front and be supported from midfield by Iniesta and Silva with either Fabregas, Mata or Cazorla alongside them. Ramos and Pique should start at centre back for the reigning world champions with Alba and Arbeloa on either side of them in the full back positions.
This is unlikely to be a game that Spain coach Vicente del Bosque will take lightly and expect to see little in the way as far as squad rotation goes, at least in the starting line up. It’s more likely that we’ll see a first choice team from Spain tonight and only once the game has been won will the changes and substitutions be made. And while that is a very sensible approach from del Bosque, it comes with a certain risk too. If Pique or Ramos get injured against Finland, for instance, there will be real worries about how Spain will deal with a France side who have already shown in this qualifying campaign that they are a team with a point to prove. If goals are scored early tonight by Spain, will we see early changes to rest key players for Tuesday night or will he wait until after the hour mark?
Another question that Spain will have to answer tonight is the level of intensity that they will play with against Finland with such a big game round the corner. Will the players go out there and try and get the game killed off in the opening half hour or will they start off slower and just hope the goals come? And if Spain do score early on tonight, will they just keep the ball in attempt to save energy and tire their opponents out? The attitude and mentality from the Spanish players and coach tonight may have a big effect not just on tonight’s game, but on Tuesday’s game with France. Three points are needed from Finland, but it would be wrong to suggest that this game is less important than the one next week. In a group of so few games, every three points is a must.