Granada, Macedonia and the quest for goals
There is a buzz in the city of Granada ahead of tonight's Spain-Macedonia game. Yesterday's open door training session was packed with fans and the game itself is almost sold-out. I get the feeling that these few games under Lopetegui's guidance have managed to sweep away the negativity that surrounded the national team after Euro 2016. In essence, little has changed in the personnel of the team with Vitolo being the notable exception. Today's game, at least on paper should be straightforward, the only difficulty could arise in underestimating the opposition as Macedonia will come into tonight's game fully motivated. It must be remembered though that Macedonians are ranked 155 in the FIFA ranking and have only won three games in three years.
Lopetegui, as is always the case pre-match was anxious to build up tonight's opponents reminding the media that they almost tied with Italy and the game must be taken seriously. With Spain and Italy neck and neck at the top of the qualifying group, it's a realistic scenario that goal difference may be used as the barometer in determining who goes through. As a result, tonight's game presents as a great chance to improve on the goal scoring front. At present Spain have +10, whilst Italy have a +3 goal difference. With no Diego Costa the striking responsibility falls to Alvaro Morata with Aduriz and new recruit Iago Aspas acting in supporting roles
Defensively there will be no Sergio Ramos, Piqué or Jordi Alba and the coach has been tinkering with a three man back line with these games against lower ranked teams in mind. This formation allows wingers to get forward more and means a more solid center of the park. Iniesta is also missing so Silva and Thiago will be the central midfield pairing. Despite the injury problems, the team is in decent shape and will face a Macedonia team defending doggedly. Spain will no doubt dominate proceedings in terms of possession but crucially tonight's match will be a test in creating scoring chances and taking them.
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