Lopetegui’s lads v difficult Danes

Burgos’ Estadio El Plantio is the venue for tonight's first leg of the qualification play-off between Spain and Denmark, to decide who competes in the 2013 European Under-21 Championships. And despite not being one of the most glamorous grounds in Spain, it holds its weight in history. It is an English-style stadium too, square with the four stands seeping onto the pitch. The hope is the Danish will feel intimidated by its classic structure, and by what Burgos CF achieved there.

As for the players, several have been here before, for Spain's last victory at this level. An immense performance throughout the tournament was followed by a victory in the final over Switzerland, when La Rojita lifted the 2011 European Championship trophy in Aarhus, Denmark.

Several faces from that tournament remain while others are new to the scene. One of the elder statesmen at this level is Manchester United's David de Gea.

"I hope it will be a similar outcome but we aren't taking anything for granted," said the ex-Atletico Madrid 'keeper. "We know we must be at 100 per cent if we are to take a good result to Denmark [on Tuesday for the second leg]”.

Both teams had impressive records in the group stages, but know that will count for nothing if they do not achieve their goal of qualification for the 2013 edition, to be held in Israel. Spain won seven of their eight group games, drawing once. They managed 27 goals and conceding just two, only Germany – who fired in 39 – surpassed them in front of goal. A potential clash between that pair is a mouth-watering prospect given their development at youth level in recent years.

Both have structures that are the envy of the world, and are now used as a benchmark for others. Coach Julen Lopetegui knows all about it – after all he was with the highly successful Spain U-19's when they won their respective European Championship in the summer. Lopetegui has not been in charge of the U-21's long, but knows the squad well having taken training sessions with former Coach Luis Milla. The demands, of course, are much more prestigious.

For many of these players the next step will be joining Vicente del Bosque's full squad. The likes of De Gea, Iker Muniain and Isco will no doubt be there sooner than most, and that very trio have been asked to lead this current group.

It is six years since the U-21's lost a game at home, chalking up 14 wins in that run, and Denmark are out to destroy that statistic. Despite not being a prestigious name they have several players capable of hurting Spain.

Keep an eye on Nicklas Helenius and Simon Makienok, while Viktor Fischer, a last minute call-up, is getting rave reviews at Ajax. The imperious name of Laudrup is in the ranks too – Andreas, son of the great Michael, is progressing well in his own right.

Spain must make sure they progress, as it's not the prestige of the U-21's they're playing for tonight, but that of Spanish football as a whole.