Spain have the opportunity to progress to the finals of the Nations League when they make the trip to Zagreb to face Croatia on Thursday night. La Roja secured a thumping 6-0 triumph over the 2018 World Cup finalists during the previous meeting in Elche but they can expect a much trickier challenge this time around with Zlatko Dalic’s side possessing the home advantage.
David de Gea has been a constant between the sticks for Spain over the past three years and he should unquestionably retain his position for the Zagreb trip. However, Luis Enrique is expected to make numerous changes in the backline with Real Madrid duo Dani Carvajal and Nacho ruled out with injuries while Jordi Alba has been recalled to the squad after surprisingly being dropped for the opening three Nations League matches.
In this case, Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta appears the likelier candidate to deputise for Carvajal on the right side of the defence with Alba on the opposite end whilst Inigo Martinez could get the nod alongside skipper Sergio Ramos at the heart of the club’s backline. Enrique has also picked Diego Llorente (one cap) and the uncapped Mario Hermoso in his 24-man squad but Martinez appears the likelier pick in the central defence, having already secured seven caps for La Roja.
Onto the midfield, Sergio Busquets is an automatic pick in the defensive midfield position and ahead of him, young duo Dani Ceballos and Saul Niguez are likely candidates to feature. Both Madrid-based players are impressive with their distribution from the centre of the park but they have the added credentials of making tireless runs in and around the opposition box. Saul, in particular, has been in good scoring form for La Roja with two goals from three Nations League matches.
Further forward, both Marco Asensio and Isco Rodriguez have been in a poor run of form for Real Madrid since the last international break and one of the duo could get the chop from Enrique’s XI. On our prediction, we are anticipating Asensio to retain his position on the left flank on the basis of his recent exploits in the Nations League. The attacker has been Spain’s standout player so far in the competition and he was responsible for putting Croatia to shreds last time around after bagging one goal and three assists in a stellar performance.
Apart from Asensio, Iago Aspas could feature on the opposite flank coming off four goals from his previous five appearances and the same goes for Alvaro Morata, who has finally found his feet with Chelsea this campaign. The ex-Real Madrid graduate had been prone to missing clear-cut chances with the Blues during the early phase of the season but he has shown a vast improvement since mid-October and comes into the current set of internationals with five goals from his previous seven appearances. He should lead the line ahead of Rodrigo.
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