MADRID: Spain will play a crucial match in Portugal on Tuesday night with a spot in the UEFA Nations League Final Four on the line as well as an eye on the near term.
La Roja must triumph in Portugal to guarantee their place in the Nations League's championship round, but after losing to Switzerland 2-1 at home on Saturday, coach Luis Enrique also needs a victory to advance his team to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
With only a friendly match against Jordan serving as preparation for the World Cup, Spain will face Costa Rica on November 23, giving Luis Enrique very little time to address several key issues that were visible on Saturday.
The coach's justification is that some players who ordinarily would have been on the team, such as Mikel Oyarzabal, Ansu Fati, Dani Olmo, Gerard Moreno, and Inigo Martinez, were absent due to injuries or lack of fitness; at least some of the aforementioned players ought to be in Qatar.
These absences help to explain why the Spanish team, despite Asensio and Alba combining for Spain's goal, lacked fluidity and included players like Ferran Torres, Marcos Asensio, Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Pablo Sarabia who are not starting games for their clubs.
It's difficult to see why Alvaro Morata wasn't utilised as a backup after the attack, as Torres, Asensio, and Sarabia searched for movement rather than anyone providing the focal point that Moreno would have provided.
The more direct Marcos Llorente was introduced as a second-half substitution, but Spain still had a tendency to form attractive forms with their passing in the middle of the field rather than convert possession into clear-cut chances.
Real Betis's effective Borja Iglesias, who played the final 25 minutes on Saturday, can anticipate getting his chance on Tuesday, and Morata will undoubtedly see action. The fact that both of Switzerland's goals came from headers from corners will further worry Luis Enrique.
With Alba, Pedri, Gavi, Torres, and Sarabia in the starting 11, Spain is not a tall team. While Eric Garcia may be skilled at playing the ball from the back, he lacks Inigo Martinez's aerial strength or even that of Yeray Alvarez, another Athletic Bilbao clubmate who has not yet been selected for the national team.
The Spanish media is still inquiring about Sergio Ramos, who, at 36, missed the all of the previous season due to injury. Enrique is a man who is devoted to the players who have performed well for him in the past, but if others, like Iglesias and Nico Williams, take their opportunities on Tuesday, he will need to give his team's composition some serious thought before selecting it on November 12 or 13.