After failing to put the nail in the coffin in Turin, a victory in Albania is now a must, but an uncomfortable game lies ahead. As we know, the game will not be in Tirana, but in Shkodër, in the north of the country, a city that meets the Uefa conditions by the skin of its teeth – it has to be within 100km of an international airport; it is 98 from that in Tirana. Last Thursday Kosova played Croatia (Kosovo whose population is overwhelmingly of Albanian origin and who play their home games there to avoid problems with Serbia) so the field is not expected to be lush.
Creating a team of heroes
Spain have already trained on the pitch and did not find it too bad. More problems could be caused by the Albanian team, a personal creation of Di Biasi who has been recruiting players of Albanian origin from throughout Europe building an adept group, with Xhaka, a player of some standing, leading the side. Others are of an average standard but are well motivated, tactically drilled, and are in high spirits after putting their country (or that of their parents and grandparents) into the Euros for the first time, and where they made a good impression. They are national heroes.
Kill off with no gifts
Lopetegui has warned against over-confidence, while at the same time claiming that Albania deserve the respect they have earned. It is likely that Thiago will start, since it was mentioned in the press conference, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it is for Iniesta, as per moves by Luis Enrique at Barça. Playing Thursday and then Sunday is a tough ask, and today will be a demanding game. Otherwise, the team excelled for an hour in Turin. Now they need to finish the game off and not gift anything in defence, on which questions raised have Diego Costa and Sergio Ramos under the magnifying glass, two big players who are on the lips of many right now.