Spain have strong mix of stars but boss Luis Enrique has major problem for World Cup – predicted line-up and stats

WHAT can we make of Spain going into the World Cup? Lots of possession and not enough goals, put simply.

They have an exceptional group but something isn’t quite clicking for Luis Enrique and his squad.

In the same group as Germany, Enrique will be aware that he needs to find the winning formula quickly otherwise the likes of Japan and even Costa Rica might smell group stage blood.

Let’s have a look at how things will look on the pitch for the Spanish.

Predicted starting XI

We would expect Spain to choose Unai Simón as his number one – though Spain also have depth here with Robert Sánchez, David Raya and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

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Expect to see Chelsea veteran Cesar Azpilicueta at right back with Pau Torres and Eric Garcia in the middle. Jordi Alba keeps going and he’ll be on the left.

In the middle, there will be rotation due to situations and tactics but we would expect the first choice to be Rodri as the 6 behind Pedri and Koke. Having Gavi in reserve is hardly a weakness either.

Up top, Alvaro Morata is key to Enrique and will be flanked by Ferran and Sarabia more often than not.

Spain boss Luis Enrique favours a 4-3-3 formation


Attacking phase

Unsurprisingly, as you can see from the visual above, Spain like to play a bit of football.

They want possession, they want to move the opponent around and then, ideally, hurt them.

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Spain like to drop deep and invite the opposition to press them

Something Spain like to do a lot, as seen above, is take the ball in tight spaces to attract pressure so they can play behind the pressure.

Unai Simon is capable in goal to play the passes into the feet of players in the next line and this can be dangerous for the opponent, as seen above.

We will also see that the Spanish midfielders are happy to play one-touch passes on the half-turn – like below with Koke.

Risky, but again opens up space to play.

Koke plays a pass on the half-turn to beat the opposition’s press

Enrique loves an inverted winger.

They come inside to get the ball direct from the centre-back and suddenly there’s space and options all over the place – as seen below with PSG’s Sarabia coming inside to receive.

Pablo Sarabia comes inside from the wing to receive the ball

Morata gets a lot of criticism but he is important to Enrique.

As we can see below, his off the ball movements are vital to create space for others.

Below, we can see how he comes deep to get the ball which opens up the pitch for others.

Alvaro Morata drops deep to create space for team-mates

Spain like to move the ball quickly through the midfield and we will see their 6 move slightly wider to help the full-back get forward to receive the ball.

He’ll then look for the winger who has gone central.

Spain score many of their goals this way.

The full-backs get forward and the wingers go into the centre of the pitch

And below we can see the attacking shape of Spain – 2-3-5 with the wingers coming inside and the full-backs high and wide.

In possession, Spain adopt a 2-3-5 formation with the full-backs high and wide

Defensive phase

So, how do Spain defend?

They have a high line and start their defending as close to their opponent’s initial build-up as possible.

Ideally, Enrique wants them to win the ball back within five seconds.

If they fail to do it, they will sit into a mid-block choosing the right moment to press again. And again. And probably again.

They are one of the top teams at the World Cup for winning the ball in the final third – that’s intense.

The example below is classic Spain under Enrique – dangerous in the final third but lose the ball.

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Spain try to win the ball back inside five seconds of losing possession

Here we can see how Spain immediately press and suffocate the player on the ball, leading to them winning it back again.

Transitions

In attacking transition, Spain are dangerous.

They have technically gifted players who can also carry the ball with power – Gavi, Koke, Pedri are all exceptional in this phase.

The wingers will stay wide and Morata will be the focal point to play off.

In defensive transition, Spain are a team who counter-press quickly.

We will see three or four players go together to close down the man on the ball.

Defenders

Tough choices for Enrique to make here, with Laporte, Pau Torres and the often knocked Eric Garcia fighting with Azpilicueta for a starting spot.

Midfielders

Easily the strongest part of Spain’s squad – Pedri (more on him below), Gavi and Carlos Soler provide that youthful energy alongside the experience of Busquets and Liverpool’s Thiago.

Attackers

By far, the weakest area of the squad for Enrique – Morata is likely to lead the line ahead of ex-Man City striker Ferran Torres.

Key player

The World Cup often gifts us a player who takes the step from very, very good to absolute elite in the eyes of the public – Barcelona’s Pedri could well be that player this time around.

Pedri could hold the key for Spain at the World Cup

He is the player that Enrique is building the side around – and he is excellent in attack, defence and transition.

Watch out for his ability to drive past players in the congested middle zone of the pitch.

Tournament prediction  

Spain are quite similar to the likes of Spain, Portugal and other teams hoping to win the World Cup.

They are great on the ball, but do struggle to turn that into goals.

But, they have an excellent head coach – tactically strong – and he is lucky enough to choose from an excellent mix of experienced, young and players in their prime.

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Spanish fans will demand a run deep into the tournament – but unless Enrique can find the key to turning possession into penetration then they could see themselves leave Qatar at the quarter-final stage.

For even more detailed analysis of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022, download your copy of the November Total Football Analysis magazine here

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