England V Spain
At 5:15 today the World and European champions will take on England at Wembley Stadium. Fabio Capello's men will take on Vicente Del Bosque's Spain side in a friendly that could be a little more competitive than you might think. Spain in their new kit will take to Wembley with a team filled with World class players from Europe's elite clubs, not even David Silva is guaranteed a starting place after being labelled the Premier League's best player this season. With players like Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Busquets and Xabi Alonso in the Spain squad, where does Silva fit in?
Unsurprisingly Spain have topped charts for their Euro 2012 qualifying group. They have eased passed all opposition winning every qualifier in their group scoring 26 goals and only conceding 6. Spain showing strength in depth by rotating their team as Chelsea wide man Juan Mata got in on the scoring against the Czech Republic who came second in the group. Spain won the group by 11 points as the Czechs managed 13 points rivalled by Scotland's 11.
On the contrary, England have shown class grinding through their Euro 2012 qualifying group but it's been far from easy. Narrowly avoiding defeat to Montenegro in the last qualifier, England have been top or close to it in their group but some unconvincing displays have cast doubt in some fans' minds. Despite having 18 points after 8 matches, 5 wins and 3 draws, fans are unconvinced due to less than thrilling performances.
England like to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with 2 holding midfielders and a striker to feed off 3 creative players. Joe Hart has made himself irreplaceable in goal but his guarding 4 have been less than exemplary. Ashley Cole has been lacklustre and below par, John Terry has been shaky. His recent scandal on alleged racism against QPR defender Anton Ferdinand almost reversed his selection. Terry's partner in the middle of defence has been experimented with due to the absence of Rio Ferdinand. Bolton defender Gary Cahill looks to confirm his place along side Terry but he will have to fight off Stoke's Matthew Upson and Everton's rock Phil Jagielka for the spot. Ferdinand's club mate Phil Jones has been impressive and is in competition with Glen Johnson for the right back spot.
In a day when all our strongest players are fit, Jack Wilshere and Gareth Barry would be my pick in the holding role with Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney lying behind Darren Bent. Aston Villa's hit man is a good finisher and is renowned for making runs behind the back four or down the channels; Wayne Rooney is utilised as a centre forward in Manchester United as he drops off and creates space for his strike partner. Rooney has been prolific in the Premier League this season; only Sergio Aguero has scored more goals in the league this season than the England forward.
Frank Lampard has been in good goal scoring form for Chelsea despite the club being on a torrid run of poor performances; Fernando Torres makes it into the squad for Spain even though his Chelsea record has been appalling. Torres' ex skipper Steven Gerrard has been out with an Ankle injury sustained after his return against Manchester United. Medics at Liverpool say their captain will be fit for the England clash.
Catalan giants Barcelona are 3 points behind rivals Real Madrid in La Liga. The core of the Barca team is not too dissimilar to the Spain side; Puyol and Pique, Xavi and Iniesta, Villa and Pedro are all in contention for a starting place at Barca and their national side. Pedro unfortunately cannot compete in this fixture as he is ruled out injured by Barca medics.
Madrid's rock Iker Casillas is the number one closely followed up by Barca's Victor Valdes and Liverpool hero Pepe Reina. Sergio Ramos and Jordi Alba will compete for the wing back places while Alvaro Arbeloa seems the most likely to start. It looks likely that Xabi Alonso will partner Sergio Busquets in the centre of midfield; can you see a pattern immerging?
The mercurial partnership of Xavi and Iniesta must start, surely. A fierce competition for the place alongside Barca striker David Villa will be contested between David Silva and Cesc Fabregas. Barca's summer arrival Fabregas has settled in seamlessly and has formed a bond with his old acquaintance Lionel Messi that is irresistible. If you didn't know that Fabregas had been an Arsenal player since the age of 16, you would have thought he had been playing with Messi all his life by the scintillating football the duo manage to concoct. David Silva too has struck up a magical partnership with an Argentinian at the Etihad Stadium. Silva has been burning brighter than the Sun does around Manchester and his recent turn of form has labelled him the best player in the Premier League this season. His supernatural ability to know when and where a challenge is coming from before the defender even thinks off tackling Silva gives him a massive advantage and it allows him to walk through any defence. He weaves his magic and keeps the ball glued tightly to his feet; his silky skills and touch make him a force to be reckoned with.
Come 7pm GMT tonight, I predict England will be applauded off the Wembley pitch for their efforts versus a superior Spain side. I think Spain will show England how to play football and their craft and conjure will truly be appreciated by England if it was not already. Spain should overcome England but if England play like a Premier League team then the Spanish might fall to our superior pace and speed on the counter attack. Premier League teams' greatest strength is normally their speed of play and it is often under utilised against overseas opposition. When we play with the burning speed we can turn over any defence but will we realise that against Spain?
Undoubtedly Spain are favourites but if England play to their strengths and not into Spain's there could be a good match ahead of us. England will have to do something special to undo Spain through their midfield and even when we do retain possession, Spain are experts at pressing and winning it back. The last time a Spanish club took to the field at Wembley they tore Manchester United, who in England are a formidable team, into pieces.
As the world tunes in to watch the best footballing nation in the world play against England, we will see the real character of the England team. Will they fall down to Spain or will they show Spain what they can do? Lets wait and see...
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