Competition
  • Champions League
  • Copa Libertadores

Zagreb: Alba in, Alcácer out

First, the scenarios: if we win today in Zagreb, we will be sure of topping the group and can look forward to the 'final four' of this new competition. If we draw, we will require that England does not beat Croatia on Sunday. If we lose, we could still find ourselves in that 'final four' so long as England-Croatia ends in a draw. There is no scenario in which we finish bottom of the group so there is no risk of relegation. It's a reflection of the positive start we made, the victory at Wembley and then the win over Croatia in Elche. It's a shame about the awful first half we had against England at Villamarín which complicated the group for us.

Modric and Rakitic out of sorts

The Maksimir stadium in Zagreb opens its doors following the sanctions that saw England play in Rijeka behind closed doors. This had been thanks to the incidents involving Croatia's rather questionable ultras. So tonight's game will have an atmosphere, with supporters and plenty at stake, and Sergio Ramos has already said that he prefers it this way. Actually, all footballers prefer that. Playing in front of empty stands is unusual and rather ghostly. Croatia, let's remember, were the World Cup runners-up, but it helps to see that neither Modric nor Rakitic have returned from their summer exploits in the same form. And the same applies to Mandzukic, normally a headache for any defence, because he chose to abandon the national team.

Jordi Alba back for Spain.

Jordi Alba back for Spain.

Alba in but no Alcácer

Jordi Alba will be there. Luis Enrique has corrected things in time, perhaps because he saw the water rising towards his neck and preferred to put the past behind him. Both men say that they like each other, which is great. Jordi Alba is a sensational player with magnificent fitness levels and he has been the best option in that position for Spain for quite some time. The missing man will be Alcácer, with whom we are seeing the same thing happen as we did with Íñigo Martínez. The reason given for him not being called up was for injury, however, the striker had just played for his club, Borussia Dortmund, and against Bayern, no less. He even scored the winner. Strange things seem to be happening.