After an incredible start to his time as manager of the Spanish national team Luis Enrique is looking to keep his 100% record. A friendly against Wales in Cardiff will allow Enrique to experiment for the first time before hosting England in a Nations Cup match at the Estadio Benito Villamarín in Seville. Injuries have forced some changes from last months squad, which will give some players a first opportunity to impress the national team set up.
Dani Carvajal, Sergi Roberto and Isco are unavailable, while Diego Costa and Iñigo Martínez have been left out so as not to aggravate recent injuries, although the latter played the Basque derby at the weekend and will represent the Basque national team against Venezuela. Enrique didn’t radically change his approach from what has become traditional for Spain in the September internationals and his most recent squad hints that he will be sticking with a tried and true 433 formation.
No change here as Enrique keeps faith in De Gea, Kepa and Pau López. The young trio of goalkeepers look to be fixtures of Spain squads for some time to come as there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of competition in this area of the pitch. De Gea will remain first choice after putting his World Cup nightmare behind him with good performances against England and Croatia last month but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kepa win a second cap in the friendly against Wales.
The injuries to Dani Carvajal and Sergi Roberto will surely give César Azpilicueta a chance to impress on the right of the defence after starting the season well for Chelsea. Jordi Alba remains frozen out of the squad and this situation doesn’t look like it will change after Enrique included three players who can cover the left side of defence.
Marcos Alonso and José Luis Gayà keep their places and on-loan Wolves defender Jonny Castro comes into the senior squad for the first time. The former Celta player has started every game during his time in England on the left of a five man defence, however, being naturally right footed he will give Enrique a versatile option to have in the squad.
Marc Bartra returns to the squad after some incredible performances since joining Betis last January. He has been playing as part of a back three in Seville but his comfort with the ball at his feet and playmaking ability are what make him an attractive proposition for Enrique. Veteran centreback Raúl Albiol keeps his place in the squad alongside captain Sergio Ramos and Real Madrid teammate Nacho, while Azpilicueta also has the ability to cover the central defensive positions.
Isco’s injury gives Koke the opportunity to regain his place in the national team in the only change to the midfield from Enrique’s previous squad. Early signs suggest that the manager’s preferred trio consists of Busquets, Thiago and Saúl, especially after the latter’s brilliant performances against England and Croatia. Busquets is the only Barcelona player in the squad and will presumably keep his place but Rodri’s good start at Atlético Madrid will keep the veteran on his toes, while providing very capable cover.
Dani Ceballos has seen more trust placed in him by Julen Lopetegui at Real Madrid and the young Andalusian midfielder may get a chance against Wales but I would expect Thiago to come in for him for the competitive fixture against England. Koke looked to be a fixture of the national team but after a dismal World Cup he didn’t find himself in the previous squad and has seen teammate Saúl jump ahead in the pecking order. The dynamism that Saúl provides with his physicality and ability to effect the game in both the defensive and offensive thirds makes him a key figure within the squad and Koke will do well to supplant him.
After his man of the match performance against Croatia Marco Asensio will be hoping to continue his good form against Wales and England. The young Mallorcan has struggled for Real Madrid in recent matches but with less pressure on his shoulders in the national team he is the man that Spain fans will be looking to to create something out of nothing. Suso keeps his place as cover for Asensio and the AC Milan player will hope to get a run out against Wales and add to his solitary international cap.
Rodrigo Moreno has seen his early season form fall off in recent weeks and he has lost his place in the Valencia team but he should keep his place if Enrique plays with three attackers. Iago Aspas was drafted in to replace Diego Costa in September and got some minutes with mixed results. The versatile forward will be hoping to cement himself in the national team squad but needs to prove that he is capable of playing consistently at the highest level.
With Diego Costa injured and out of form this opens the door for Alvaro Morata and a returning Paco Alcacer to lead the line for La Roja. Morata has struggled to find consistent playing time under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea but his great on-field relationship with Azpilicueta might give him an opportunity if the Navarrese full back is given the nod. Paco Alcacer has had a blistering start to his career at Borussia Dortmund but his goals have all come after being introduced as a substitute. After not getting consistent playing time in the last few years he is being eased back into the first team picture in Germany but his incredible goalscoring record leaves Luis Enrique with little choice but to give the Valencia striker a chance to shine in international football.