Nations League Preview: Spain vs Portugal
The club football season is sadly over, and we have a few months to wait before its return. But until that time, there is still football to be played and even business to be done in the footballing world. The first order of business being the UEFA Nations League.
The competition is kicking off on the 2nd of June and every side will be determined to do the business. While this competition is not held in as high regard as the European Championships or the World Cup, it is still an international trophy to win, which makes it a very competitive event. Every player wants to bring home silverware for their country.
First things first, we have the group stages, and there are some tasty games to feast your eyes upon. One of them being Spain vs Portugal, this is a massive derby for the locals and it’s looking to be a fantastic game.
Nations League Team Selections
Both managers will have had a tough job picking a squad, with the vast amount of talent that both countries have to offer.
Spain has a massive amount of young, exciting talent coming through. Barcelona’s La Masia is yet again proving to be one of the greatest talent factories in the world.
There have been some big names missing from Luis Enrique’s squad recently. Star goalkeeper David de Gea is once again absent. Despite being one of Man United’s best players last season, he still cannot make his way back into the Spain setup. They have instead opted for:
- Robert Sanchez
- Unai Simon
- David Raya
The three are all brilliant keepers in their own regard, but none of them have the experience and legendary status of David de Gea. It’s a head scratcher as to why he isn’t involved.
As for the defensive side, Gerard Pique has been retired since 2018 and Sergio Ramos is constantly injured. This isn’t a massive problem for Enrique as he still has plenty of options.
- Pau Torres
- Inigo Martinez
- Aymeric Laporte
- Diego Llorente
- Eric Garcia
- Marcos Alonso
- Jordi Alba
- Dani Carvajal
- Cesar Azpilicueta
There is a fine mixture of youth and experience in Spain’s listed defenders. You have Eric Garcia who has shown promise for Barcelona, Pau Torres whose consistent performances at Villarreal have linked him with a Man Utd transfer, and you also have Carvajal, Alba, Alonso and Azpilicueta. All of which are Champions League winners with bags of experience winning at the highest level.
The midfield is where things get exciting for Spain, it’s been that way for a long time from the days of Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. Now we have a new era, with Pedri and Gavi. Unfortunately, Pedri hasn’t made this squad:
- Sergio Busquets
- Marcos Llorente
- Carlos Soler
- Thiago Alcantara
- Dani Olmo
Busquets is still in and around the squad in the latter stages of his career. Thiago has been brilliant for Liverpool and will be looking to make an impact. Marcos Llorente and Koke have bags of energy and will be high pressers in the side.
The attacking area is also very exciting for Spain:
- Ansu Fati
- Ferran Torres
- Marco Asensio
- Pablo Sarabia
- Alvaro Morata
- Raul de Tomas
Fati and Torres will provide flair and pace on the wings, while Asensio and Sarabia will act as inverted forwards to create space and link up play with strikers de Tomas and Morata.
Portugal will have a lot to handle, but they themselves have a lot of incredible talent from defence all the way to attack.
In the goalkeeping department, they have lucked out. Diogo Costa has been brilliant as well as Jose Sa and Rui Patricio. Fernando Santos has a choice to make on who will be starting out of those three.
Defensively, Ruben Dias will be missing due to injury, but this will not be the end of the world as there are many great defensive options for Portugal.
- Diogo Dalot
- Joao Cancelo
- Danilo Peirera
- David Carmo
- Domingos Duarte
- Nuno Mendes
- Raphael Guerreiro
The two boys from Manchester, Dalot and Cancelo, will hold down the right back position while the experienced Pepe will lead Peirera, Carmo or Duarte at centre back. Exciting left back Nuno Mendes will be up against Guerreiro of Dortmund for the left back spot.
The midfield options for Portugal are not half bad either. There are some incredible talents selected in the squad.
- Bruno Fernandes
- Joao Moutinho
- Joao Palhinha
- Ruben Neves
- Bernardo Silva
- Matheus Nunes
- Vitor Ferreira
- William Carvalho
Once again, a great mix of youth and experience. Two more Manchester lads in Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva will likely be crucial in Portugal’s success. Nunes will be looking to learn from the group as he develops. Moutinho and Neves from Wolves will both be looking to hunt and earn places in the side.
On the attack, Portugal have a plethora of options. These being:
- Goncalo Guedes
- Rafael Leao
- Ricardo Horta
- Andre Silva
- Diogo Jota
- Cristiano Ronaldo
A few names stand out, but most notably you’ll see Cristiano Ronaldo. The United forward has been the greatest player in Portuguese history and will look to continue punishing Spain. He scored a hat trick against them at the 2018 World Cup. Jota and Leao will bring heaps of energy. Leao in particular has been excellent for AC Milan, helping them to a Scudetto title.
Who will win?
Possession wise, I can see Spain just edging Portugal, but it will be a very even split. Both sides will look to control the ball and in doing so, the game. The issue with this game plan, is that both sides have such competent midfield players. Busquets is one of the greatest possession retainers in history and Ruben Neves does a similar job at Wolves.
Bruno Fernandes may have to adapt his play slightly to help his side keep the ball for longer periods. At Man United, he often tries an impossible pass, this leads to a lack of ball retention in their team. Something that Portugal cannot afford in this fixture. They will need to keep the ball for long periods in order to stop Spain from gaining momentum.
Portugal are a great counter attacking side, and if the plan of keeping the ball fails they will still have opportunities to hit Spain on counters by using their momentum against them. I can see this playing a large factor, Cristiano Ronaldo is brilliant on the counter despite his old age.
I think that Portugal have more avenues to potentially succeed and will just about edge out Spain in matchday 1 of the Nations League 2022. They have counter attacking prowess, the ability to hold the ball for large periods, defenders who are courageous and an impeccable set piece lineup. Bruno Fernandes swinging in corners to Ronaldo is a scary sight.
As for the score, I can see a 2-1 victory for the Portuguese, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Diogo Jota scoring.
Where to watch live on TV in the UK
The game will be available to watch on Premier Sports 2. A service that is available across the UK. The game will get underway at 19:45 BST on Thursday the 2nd of June.
The first massive game of the Nations League, two gems of Europe who share an island and an incredible history of great games between them. Spain vs Portugal, don’t miss it!
Author: Jude Sutcliffe