Arguably the most exciting European Championship 2024 qualifying fixture this Thursday pits Spain and Scotland against each other in Seville.
Poised to avenge a 2-0 defeat in Glasgow last March, Luis de la Fuente’s men welcome the Group A pacesetters to the Estadio de La Cartuja in a mouth-watering top-table six-pointer.
La Roja’s response to an underwhelming loss at Hampden Park has been ferocious, as they’ve won two subsequent Euro 2024 qualifiers against Georgia and Cyprus by a combined score of 13-1.
While another victory would steer Spain further away from the chasing pack in Group A, a potential upset could pave the way for third-placed Norway to leapfrog them into second.
Unlike their hosts, Scotland will remain at the top of the standings regardless of the result in Andalusia after winning all five Euro 2024 qualifiers this year.
Steve Clarke’s high-flyers thumped lowly Cyprus 3-0 on the road in their last qualifying outing, making it five wins on the trot in 2023 following a brace of winless games towards the end of 2022 (D1, L1).
However, the Tartan Army’s purple patch ended abruptly at the hands of their neighbours, England, in their last game in September, with Gareth Southgate’s side running out 3-1 winners in a friendly.
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Since the stakes are high for the three-time European champions, playing on the home turf bodes well for De la Fuente’s men, as they’ve won all three post-World Cup games at home by an aggregate score of 11-1.
Spain’s home form in the Euro qualifying matches has been intimidating, with La Roja winning their last 24 fixtures, including 16 without conceding.
That run includes a 6-0 demolition of Cyprus last time out and a comprehensive 3-0 win over Norway at the start of their Euro 2024 qualifying journey.
Despite going down in Glasgow, the Iberian heavyweights boast an impressive home record against Scotland, stitching together six consecutive H2Hs without losing as hosts (W3, D3).
Although the last time Scotland won on Spanish soil was in 1963 in a friendly match, the visitors won’t be bothered by their barren run in the Iberian country after a stellar Group A start.
Defensive solidity has been the Tartan Army’s most prominent feature during the ongoing qualifying cycle, with Clarke’s team only conceding once in five matches.
Except for a 2-1 away triumph against Norway, their remaining four victories in this group have yielded multiple-goal margins, which puts them on the brink of a second straight Euro qualification.
Only one point separates Scotland from achieving their target, but Spain’s four-year run of clean sheets in home Euro qualifiers highlights the size of the task awaiting Clarke’s troops.
Spain coach De la Fuente cannot count on Barcelona ace Pedri, RB Leipzig playmaker Dani Olmo and Paris Saint-Germain forward Marcos Asensio during this international break.
Real Madrid left-back Fran Garcia, Athletic Bilbao midfielder Olhan Sancet and Granada winger Bryan Zaragoza have been summoned for the first time to fill the vacancies.
As for Scotland, Arsenal loanee Kieran Tierney and Norwich City defender Grant Hanley are unavailable for selection due to injuries.
Without two first-choice defenders, Clarke will probably turn to Nottingham Forest’s Scott McKenna and Leeds United captain Liam Cooper to plug the holes at the back.
Spain potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Unai Simon; Alejandro Balde, Robin Le Normand, Aymeric Laporte, Dani Carvajal; Rodri, Gavi, Mikel Merino; Ferran Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal, Alvaro Morata.
Scotland potential starting line-up:
(5-4-1): Angus Gunn; Andy Robertson, Scott McKenna, Jack Hendry, Ryan Porteous, Aaron Hickey; John McGinn, Scott McTominay, Callum McGregor, Billy Gilmour; Lyndon Dykes.
We Say: Spain 1-1 Scotland
Given Spain’s outrageous Euro qualifying form on home soil, it’s hard to bet against them, but we cannot underestimate Scotland’s run in the ongoing cycle.
La Roja will likely dominate possession and keep the Tartan Army pinned to their opening third, yet set-piece situations could be the way for the visitors to pull off another upset.
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