Sergio Busquets to return after Covid isolation, Thiago and Azpilicueta to bring some much-needed leadership… and now’s the time to unleash Adama Traore’s pace off the bench: What Luis Enrique must do to salvage dysfunctional Spain’s Euro hopes
A group of Spain pundits had the calculators out on Monday night checking to see if drawing with Slovakia would still see them through to the last-16 meeting.
It will, providing Poland don’t beat Sweden. Then one said out loud what the others were all thinking: ‘It sums things up the fact that we are even talking about this, and in the group that we are in. It’s hardly Germany, France, Portugal!’
Spain’s dire Euros needs to liven up after flat draws with Sweden and Poland so here Sportsmail looks at five things that would put a rocket under Luis Enrique’s side in their last Group E match on Wednesday evening.
Spain’s dire Euros needs to liven up after flat draws with Sweden and Poland in Group E
They have missed him more than they might have expected. The captain’s ability to play a killer through ball into a gap that only he has seen has not diminished with the passing of the years.
The 32-year-old missed the first two group games because of his Covid positive but there were no serious symptoms and he has trained 100 per cent since rejoining the group.
He will come back in for Rodri tomorrow and Spain will be the better for it.
Spain have missed Sergio Busquets more than they might have expected in their first two games
Azpilicueta brought into defence
Spain have only conceded once but their defence has looked like conceding every time it’s been attacked.
It’s also a side lacking the sort of steely determination that churns out clean sheets and ends up winning trophies. They cannot overlook the player who just a few weeks back lifted the European Cup with Chelsea.
Azpilicueta should come in at right back. This would leave Spain still playing 4-3-3 but give them the possibility of switching to a three when Jordi Alba bombs forward down the left.
Cesar Azpilicueta would leave Spain still playing 4-3-3 but give them the possibility of switching to a three
Marcos Llorente released further forward
With Azpilicueta at right-back the defensive shackles can be taken off Llorente. This Spain squad does not have a lot of goals in it.
Alvaro Morata carried the can for that earlier in the tournament but the problem runs far deerp and a midfielder who managed 13 goals for his club last season, plus 12 assists, should not be wasted at full-back.
Luis Enrique’s plan to play Llorente at right back might have worked had the Atletico Madrid midfielder enjoyed unlimited licence to attack but he hasn’t so far. He needs to be moved further forward where he can score and assists as he does for his club.
Marcos Llorente needs to be moved further forward where he can score and assists
Thiago starts for Pedri
Pedri has so far struggled to hit the heights of last season when playing close to 50 games in his first full campaign at Barcelona.
The 18-year-old’s time will come and it might even be deeper into this tournament but it’s maybe time to start with Thiago and use Pedri fresh off the bench later in games.
The teenager has also been ruthlessly targeted by both Sweden and Poland and not received much refereeing protection, another reason to believe a devastating cameo ten minutes at the end might serve Spain better with Thiago playing from the first whistle.
It’s time to start with Thiago (right) and use Pedri (left) fresh off the bench later in games
Adama’s pace used from the bench
Slovakia only need a draw so they are not likely to be any more interested in committing men forward than Sweden or Poland were.
If it’s still 0-0 into the second half Adama’s direct running ought to be Luis Enrique’s go-to weapon of choice.
Spain’s passing monologue lacks the sort of explosive improvisation that the Wolves forward can provide. His hamstrings held him back at the start of the tournament but he’s fully fit now and must be utilized albeit as sub.
Adama Traore’s direct running ought to be Luis Enrique’s go-to weapon of choice