Having breezed through their European Championship qualifying group with a perfect ten out of ten wins; England face a much tougher test in the form of defending champions Spain when the two nations come face-to-face in Alicante tonight.
It has been an impressive 17 months since Roy Hodgson’s side last tasted defeat; harking back to the Three Lions’ woeful 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil, but Friday’s international friendly inside the Estadio Jose Rico Perez Stadium will test England’s durability to the very limit.
Spain, who have won the past two European Championships, are also looking to silence their doubters ahead of next year’s finals in France after a similarly miserable World Cup campaign where the defending champions failed to make it out of Group B.
However Vicente del Bosque’s La Furia Roja [The Red Fury], who have won their last six international games in all competitions, have seemingly turned the corner since their Samba nightmare after topping Group C in their Euro 2016 qualifiers with nine wins from ten games.
The Three Lions haven’t faced Spain competitively since 1996 when England knocked Spain out of the European Championships by winning 4-2 on penalties (0-0 A.E.T) at Wembley Stadium.
But since then; Spain have edged out tonight’s visitors by winning three of the following five international friendlies between the two countries, although England came out on top during their latest head-to-head back in 2011.
Back inside Wembley; former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard struck the only goal of the game in the 49th minute to seal an impressive victory over the World Cup champions of South Africa 2010.
Despite both teams making it safely through their respective qualifying campaigns; tonight’s game is an opportunity for the players to lay down their mark and stake a claim ahead of next summer’s European Championships and for England and Spain to showcase their major tournament credentials to the rest of the continent.
To see who we think should start against Spain tonight, check out Shoot’s England XI here.
Following tonight’s clash with Spain; England then head home to Wembley Stadium on Tuesday to welcome next summer’s European Championship hosts France at the national stadium as part of their healthy preparations for the finals.
England’s all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney is rested tonight as manager Hodgson plans to experiment with his starting eleven in Alicante.
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, who is the Premier League’s top goalscorer so far this season with 12 goals in 12 games, is also unlikely to start against Del Bosque’s side tonight as he recovers from a slight knock.
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli is pushing for his first England start having come off the bench to feature in the Three Lions’ closing Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania, meanwhile Spurs teammate Eric Dier is searching for his first senior cap having been called into the international fold for the very first time.
Meanwhile the hosts are without Manchester City’s David Silva and Real Madrid midfielder Isco, meaning Manchester United’s Juan Mata is set to be handed a rare chance to star in Spain’s midfield ranks this evening.
Celta Vigo’s Nolito, who is reportedly attracting interest from FC Barcelona having scored seven and assisted four goals in La Liga so far this season, could start on the left-flank with Chelsea striker Diego Costa up front.
Last Meeting: England 1-0 Spain (Friendly – November 12, 2011)
Key Men: Spain – Gerard Piqué; England – Harry Kane
Form: Spain – WWWWWW; England – DWWWWW
Shoot Says: Spain 1-0 England