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ESP vs PRT, UEFA Nations League: MPL Preview, Predictions & Fantasy Team

With the club season now behind us all over Europe, the focus switches to international football. Spain will face Portugal in the UEFA Nations League encounter at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville. Both sides will be opening their 2022-23 Nations League campaigns with this glamorous fixture. The two teams have been drawn into League A Group 2 with the Czech Republic and Switzerland, and both Spain and Portugal will play matches each in the competition during the early stages of June.

European heavyweights Spain have proven their credentials in the UEFA Nations League already. They had reached the final of the 2020-21 Nations League by defeating European champions Italy in the semi-final. However, they ended up falling one step short of the big prize and lost the final showdown against France 2-1 in Milan.

La Roja will be up against Portugal, Switzerland and the Czech Republic who have all been drawn together in Group 2 of League A. These fixtures over the next couple of weeks will allow head coach Luis Enrique ample time and opportunity to take a good look at his players, experiment and rotate, and also finally settle on to a definite XI before the 2022 World Cup later this year.

Spain had little to no problems while booking their tickets for Qatar and will be one of the teams to watch out for in the biggest football event of 2022. They have picked up 19 points from their eight outings in Group B. La Roja will have their sights firmly set on their second World Cup crown after lifting their inaugural World Cup trophy in 2010 in South Africa.

Following that historic win in South Africa, Spain have had a poor record in subsequent World Cups. They shockingly went out of the group stages of the Brazil World Cup in 2014 and then lost their Round of 16 fixture against hosts Russia on penalties in the 2018 World Cup.

However, this Spain squad under former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has shown plenty of signs of resurgence and cannot be taken lightly. La Roja had made it till the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2020 before being eliminated by eventual champions Italy. They are one of the most attractive and free-flowing football-playing sides in Europe and Enrique has managed to introduce plenty of youth and exuberance into the mix with the addition of players like Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati, Pau Torres, and Ferran Torres.

Since finishing their World Cup qualifying campaign, the 2010 World Cup winners have played two friendlies. They recorded a 2-1 victory over Albania on March 26 and then went on to thump Iceland 5-0 five days later. They are currently on a four-match winning streak and will be bidding to make it five in a row against Portugal on Thursday.

Compared to Spain, Portugal had a rougher route to reach the finals of the 2022 World Cup. They had to go through the playoffs and defeated Turkey 3-1 in the semi-finals before beating North Macedonia, who had defeated Italy in their playoff semi-finals, 2-0 to secure their place in the main event in Qatar later this year.

Fernando Santos’ team have been drawn into Group H of the competition where they will have to face Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea. It could prove to be a tricky and formidable group to handle and there’s no doubt that Portugal would want to build momentum heading into the World Cup in Qatar.

Portugal, who are yet to win their maiden World Cup, have been eliminated in the Round of 16 stage in two of their last three World Cup campaigns. They lost to Uruguay in the same stage in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and their highest ever finish in the competition was way back in 1966 when Eusebio led them to third place.

Portugal will face Spain, Switzerland twice, and the Czech Republic in their UEFA Nations League games over the next couple of weeks. This will be looked at as valuable preparation time ahead of the World Cup.

Portugal had defeated Netherlands 1-0 in the final of the 2019 UEFA Nations League to become the inaugural winners of the competition. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo finished as the top scorer with three goals while Bernardo Silva was elected as the Player of the Tournament.

Portugal and Spain have played out goalless draws in their last two meetings, both friendlies, in October 2020 and June 2021 respectively, with their last competitive meeting occurring at the 2018 World Cup – the pair playing out a pulsating 3-3 draw in the group stage of the competition with Ronaldo scoring a superb hat-trick.

ESP vs PRT, UEFA Nations League

Date: 3rd June, 2022

Time: 12:15 AM IST

Venue: Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville

FORM GUIDE:

Spain Nations League form:

  • W-L-D-W-W-L

Spain form (all competitions):

  • W-L-W-W-W-W

Portugal Nations League form:

  • W-W-D-W-L-W

Portugal form (all competitions):

  • W-W-D-L-W-W

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Spain wins: 17

Draws: 15

Portugal wins: 6

TEAM NEWS:

Spain Team News: Spain will have to make do without reliable centre-back Aymeric Laporte. The Manchester City defender has pulled out of the squad due to a knee problem. Barcelona’s Pedri, who is blossoming into a world-class midfielder, is also out for this game due to injury. He had missed the final stage of Barcelona’s season since April as well.

There are also doubts surrounding Ansu Fati’s fitness. Although the prolific Barcelona youngster has consistently come off the bench in the final few matches of the season to ease into match rhythm after spending a lengthy period on the sidelines, he has been called up to the Spanish national squad. Head coach Luis Enrique has suggested that his fitness will be properly assessed during training sessions before making a definite call.

There is still no David de Gea, with Unai Simon very much the number one goalkeeper at this moment in time, with Robert Sanchez and David Raya picked to support the Athletic Bilbao shot-stopper.

Eric Garcia could partner Villarreal’s Pau Torres at the heart of the defence. Although Thiago did look rusty in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid and had to be subbed off in the second half, he might return for this clash.

Gavi could play in an advanced midfield role in the absence of Pedri and he will be hoping to support his Barcelona teammate Ferran Torres. The highest active goal scorer in the squad Alvaro Morata, who has found the back of the net on 25 occasions with La Roja, should lead the line once again.

Portugal Team News: Just as Spain are missing their reliable Manchester City center-back due to injury, so are Portugal as Ruben Dias has been out for a long time and is unlikely to return for this fixture. This could result in right-back Danilo deputizing in the heart of the defense beside experienced and veteran defender Pepe.

Too many changes and surprised aren’t expected in Portugal’s starting XI on their trip to Seville in Spain. Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva are expected to be partnered by Joao Moutinho in the middle of the park. Despite coming off from the bench for Liverpool in the second half of the UEFA Champions League, Diogo Jota is in contention to start this game. Meanwhile, captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the line as usual in his 187th appearance for the Portuguese national team.

There is another spot open in the final third of the field, and a number of players are in contention to play off the right, but Porto’s Otavio could ultimately get the nod.

Spain possible starting lineup:

Simon; Azpilicueta, E Garcia, P Torres, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Koke; Gavi, Morata, F Torres

Portugal possible starting lineup:

Patricio; Cancelo, Pepe, Danilo, Guerreiro; Fernandes, Moutinho, Bernardo; Otavio, Ronaldo, Jota

Predictions:

This match has all the elements to shape into a brilliant game of football. Both sides believe in fast-paced, energetic, attacking football and have plenty of stars in their lineup. This is expected to be an end-to-end encounter where both the defenses will end up deciding the game. Both Spain and Portugal are missing reliable center-halves in Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias and the likes of Pau Torres and Pepe will have to step up their game in the absence of their usual partners.

The last three matches between Spain and Portugal have ended in stalemates and this one isn’t expected to be any different either.

ESP vs PRT Fantasy XI No. 1

ESP vs PRT Fantasy XI No. 2

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