Football: Spain game allows Southgate to see if he fits the pattern

Spain manager Julen Lopetegui earned his promotion on the basis of his performance as the Under-21s coach, an example that Gareth Southgate will be keen to emulate. Spain and England face each other in a friendly at Wembley today.
Spain manager Julen Lopetegui earned his promotion on the basis of his performance as the Under-21s coach, an example that Gareth Southgate will be keen to emulate. Spain and England face each other in a friendly at Wembley today.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • England's caretaker manager Gareth Southgate faces a man he aspires to emulate in terms of both style and status in today's friendly against Julen Lopetegui's Spain.

The match at Wembley will be the fourth and final assignment of Southgate's interim stint and following Friday's 3-0 win over Scotland in World Cup qualifying, he is expected to be handed the role on a full-time basis.

Like Southgate, Lopetegui earned the faith of his country's football association by excelling as Under-21s coach, while Spain's confident passing game is something Southgate wants England to replicate.

"It's one of the biggest challenges that we can face," Southgate said ahead of the encounter.

"It looks as though they'll have a couple of players missing, but they have strength in depth and a clear identity of how they play through all of their age groups.

  • 27

  • Age of likely Spain debutant Ander Herrera, the Manchester United midfielder.

"Obviously Julen has been the Under-21 manager so he knows the system. He's worked with so many of the players and the style, so it's going to be a huge test for us.

"But that's a good challenge, a different type of challenge for us to prepare for."

While England are unbeaten on Southgate's watch, they are yet to produce a performance that has got fans off their seats.

England's efforts to build play up from the back were unconvincing, but the 46-year-old will task his players to press on with the tactic against a Spain team who are masters of the art.

Like England, Spain go into the game on the back of a slightly flattering victory that kept them top of their World Cup qualifying pool - in their case a 4-0 win over Macedonia on Saturday.

Lopetegui is unbeaten in five games since taking charge after Vicente del Bosque stepped down following their last-16 exit at the hands of Italy at Euro 2016.

Both coaches are expected to shuffle their starting line-ups.

Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Diego Costa are all absent and Alvaro Morata is a doubt after being forced off half an hour from full-time against Macedonia.

Sergi Roberto, Cesar Azpilicueta, Isco, Nolito, Juan Mata and Jose Callejon could all start, while Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera is in line to make a belated senior debut aged 27.

"It is clear that the three points at stake were (against Macedonia) and now we have a fantastic game against a great national team like England," said Lopetegui.

"We want to be competitive and play well, so whoever plays, it will be a good 11."

For England, Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand may start, having sat out the victory over Scotland, while Jamie Vardy could replace Daniel Sturridge up front now that Harry Kane has returned to Tottenham to continue his recovery from an ankle injury.

Jack Wilshere is also pushing to make his first appearance for England this season.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ENGLAND V SPAIN

Singtel TV Ch109, tomorrow, 3.55am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Spain game allows Southgate to see if he fits the pattern'. Print Edition | Subscribe