As Spain kick off their Euro 2020 preparations with friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands this month, boss Luis Enrique has plenty to ponder.
The former Barcelona midfielder returned to his position as La Roja manager in controversial circumstances back in November 2019, but he is yet to take charge of a game since his return.
Enrique faces a number of potential conundrums as part of his planning for the competition, where Spain will play their group games at Athletic Bilbao’s Estadio de San Mames.
These include concerns over the form of key players, a difficult group to navigate through, and a potential negativity over his return to the fold following the departure of Robert Moreno at the end of qualifying.
Here at Football Espana, we take a look at some of the key areas that need to be addressed before Euro 2020 gets underway in June.
The Return of Enrique
Enrique initially stepped into the breach as Spain boss in July 2018, following Julen Lopetegui’s shock departure, after taking over at Real Madrid.
He reignited some life back into a tired squad, still looking to shake off their 2018 World Cup exit at the hands of hosts Russia.
But his tenure was not without its early issues, as they lost at home to England and away in Croatia in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.
But as the business end of Euro 2020 qualifying kicked in, he turned in a opening day 2-1 win over Norway.
However from there on, Enrique was to withdraw from his position, due to personal matters, with former assistant Moreno stepping in to sealing a unbeaten qualification.
Moreno’s permanent position was established mid qualifying, after Enrique stepped down following the tragic death of his young daughter.
But after securing their place at Euro 2020, the RFEF made the bold step of removing Moreno and reappointing Enrique, just hours after their final game.
The news received a mixed reaction within both the Spanish media and the squad, with certain players having previously backed Moreno to stay on.
Enrique has been bullish about the situation, stating that his absence was only temporary, and that Moreno has shown a ‘lack of respect’ in his handling of the situation.
However, despite ENrique looking to establish come clarity, he has arguably achieved the opposite, with growing speculation as to how his squad will react to his return.
He needs to address this immediately, and quell any potential problems in the coming weeks, to prevent them boiling over mid-tournament.
The Asturian will be confident in his ability to do this, having already made a number of high profile calls during his first spell in charge.
Problems In Goal
Enrique opted for Manchester United stopper David De Gea in seven of his eight games in charge.
But Moreno removed the former Atletico Madrid man for the majority of his games in charge, with Chelsea’s Kepa coming in.
The issue for Enrique is now not just which of his Premier League keepers to go for in the Euros, but which is in the worse form.
De Gea obviously represents a more experienced option, but he has made a series of high profile errors.
Kepa has been in and out of the Blues side recent weeks, with manager Frank Lampard admitting he was concerned over his form.
Enrique’s only other realistic option would be Pau Lopez from AS Roma, or Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon.
Logic indicates he will revert back to De Gea, but Enrique needs to find a way to trigger an increase in both form and confidence in the coming months, something his club manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has struggled to do.
Goal shy Spain?
Without the likes of Raul, David Villa or Fernando Torres to call on, there has been a regular panic at the start of international tournaments as to where the Spanish goals will come from.
Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno and Atletico Madrid star Alvaro Morata finished as La Roja’s top scorer in Euro 2020 qualifying, with four goals.
However that total was also matched by centre back Sergio Ramos, giving an indication of the lack of top level finisher in the ranks.
Rodrigo should be fit in time to make the squad, after suffering an injury disrupted campaign at the Estadio Mestalla.
Morata should also have done enough to be classed as a solid inclusion, buth the other 2/3 three slots are up for grabs.
Alaves’ Lucas Perez is the current top Spanish scorer in La Liga, and could get the nod, whilst Real Sociedad star Mikel Oyarzabal could be an interesting outside call to hit the ground running if selected.
The final spot is set to be a battle between Angel Rodriguez, Gerard Moreno, Iago Aspas and Paco Alcacer.
Group of Death?
Spain are heavily fancied to cruise out of their group,
and them topping Group E is an excellent option for punters who are looking for a little bit of value, prior to the tournament starting. Spain are a general priced 1/3 with most of the bookies that SBO promote, which on the face of it seems short. However, when you look in more depth – it’s 6/1 bar the favourites, with Poland at a general 6/1 chance, Sweden at 13/2, and the play off winners right out at 14/1. Whilst it’s not set in stone, 1/3 seems a reasonable price.
However, their opponents will not make it easy for Enrique’s big hitters. with Sweden causing them problems in qualification, and Poland confident of the enduring threat of skipper Robert Lewandowksi.
Both sides are aware they face Spain as underdogs, but that presents its own set of difficulties for Spain, as they onus will be on them to break down sides – a tactic they have struggled against in recent years.
Enrique will look to hone his approach during the upcoming qualifiers, but he will have to create a ready made Plan B to counter the threat of their opponents.
The final spot in the group is yet to be decided, however whoever gets through from the play-offs will present a similar obstacle to that of Sweden and Poland.
As it stands, it will be one of four possibilities for Enrique, with Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all set to do battle later this month.