In a week where poppies and police charges have been the main talking points it seems that the meeting between two of the greatest footballing nations on the planet has taken a backseat. Current World and European champions Spain will grace Wembley Stadium with their presence on Saturday afternoon when they take on England in a friendly that has been overshadowed by matters off the field.
Debate has raged this week over FIFA’s decision to ban the England side from wearing poppies on their shirts this Saturday despite it being the day after Remembrance Day. Fortunately football’s governing body has seen sense and allowed the national side to wear a poppy on a black armband as opposed to on the shirt. There have also been disputes over the inclusion of John Terry after the Chelsea defender was caught up in a racism scandal after he accused of abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in a recent meeting between the sides. Whilst Fabio Capello has stuck with the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ rule it’s surprising that the 31-year-old has been permitted by the FA to take part in the game despite the seriousness of the allegations.
Never the less this friendly should turn out to be an exciting one with both teams in strong form ahead of next summers European Championships in Ukraine and Poland. England have experienced an uplifting 2011 after their disaster in last years World Cup and haven’t tasted defeat since France beat them 2-1 at Wembley last November. Despite some uninspiring performances four wins in seven games has seen Capello’s men qualify for next years championships with ease and go into this game as the form team. Despite missing Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, Capello has a strong squad at his disposal although it’s expected that the Italian will forgo any major tactical experiments in this game in an attempt to keep his cards close to his chest before next summer.
Vincent Del Bosque’s Spain side travel to Wembley on the back of four consecutive wins after defeat to Italy in August have an admirable record against England. With the big hitters like Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta back in the squad the Spaniards are at full strength and Del Bosque is expected to name a strong starting starting eleven in what will be one of their three warm up games before the Euro’s. They’ll be confident of securing a fourth successive win over England in what will be one of the tougher friendly matches they’ll contest before they defend their European crown next summer.
Montenegro 2-2 (A) 7/10/11, Wales 1-0 (H) 6/9/11, Bulgaria 3-0 (A) 2/9/11, Switzerland 2-2 (H) 4/6/11, Ghana 1-1 (H) 29/3/11
Potential Starting X11
1. J. Hart 2. G. Johnson 3. A. Cole, 4. S. Parker 5. J. Lescott 6. G. Cahill 7. T. Walcott 8. F. Lampard [C] 9. D. Bent 10. D. Wellbeck 11. J. Milner
Phil Jagielka broke his toe during the week which could see John Terry play more of a part than first expected. The Everton defenders condition is being assessed on a daily basis by England’s medical team as he battles to be fit. Capello is keen to use Jagielka as he continues to experiment with players before next summer.
Theo Walcott: The Arsenal man has been in blistering form during the past month and an accomplished display against the world champions could book him an early ticket to the Euro’s next summer. Despite lacking the conventional attributes of a winger the 22-year-old has harnessed his explosive pace into a refined weapon that can seriously harm teams at the flick of a switch.
Frank Lampard is the only England player in the squad that featured the last time they beat Spain way back in 2001. The game at Villa Park saw the national side run out 3-0 winners in Sven Goran Eriksson’s first game in charge with Nicky Barmby, Emile Heskey and Ugo Ehiogu on the scoresheet.
Scotland 3-1 (H) 11/10/11, Czech Republic 2-0 (A) 7/10/11, Liechtenstein 6-0 (H) 6/9/11, Chile 3-2 (H) 4/6/11, Italy 1-2 (A) 10/8/11
Potential Starting X11
1. I. Casillas [C] 2. S. Ramos 3. Jordi Alba, 4. G. Pique 5. C. Puyol 6. Xavi 7. D. Villa 8. A. Iniesta 9. F. Torres 10. J. Mata 11. S. Busquets
Spain will keep an eye on Iniesta after he missed their last two games against Scotland and the Czech Republic with a niggling hamstring injury. Apart from that Del Bosque has no major concerns with his squad all fighting fit.
Xavi: Part of the furniture for both Spain and Barcelona the elegant midfielder has picked up numerous trophies and accolades during his illustrious career. His graceful gliding around the pitch and razor sharp passing ability have made him one of the best players on the planet. England should be wary of giving him too much time and space on Saturday as he will cut them open without a seconds hesitation.
This will be only the 22nd meeting between the two sides and surprisingly Spain trail England in terms of victories. The Spanish have won only eight of the meetings between the two whilst England have triumphed in 11. However three wins on the trot has closed the gap for Saturday’s visitors and they’ll be hoping to narrow it even further on Saturday.
Last Time in England
Old Trafford, Manchester
England 0-1 Spain
Referee: M. Weiner
England have enjoyed an uplifting year after the underwhelming 2010 World Cup campaign and go into this game brimming with confidence. A few players can expect to make their debut and their introduction to international football will give fans hope for the future. However Spain are still the best team in the world and will pose a serious threat to England’s unbeaten 2011. With the home side set to give debuts to new players that inexperience may count in Spain’s favour. Whatever the outcome of the game it will be a thriller!