COACH Luis Enrique will have to depend on a makeshift lineup to secure Spain a place in next year’s World Cup finals as he will be missing nine key players through injury for the qualifiers against Greece and Sweden over the next four days.
Ahead of their final two qualifiers, Spain sits in second place in Group B, trailing Sweden by two points and four ahead of third-placed Greece.
With only the group winners guaranteed a spot in next year’s tournament in Qatar, Luis Enrique will be hoping his understrength lineup will be up to the task for Thursday’s match in Athens as well as Sunday’s home tie against Sweden in Seville.
The second-place finishers in each group face a playoff.
Marcos Llorente, Ferran Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal, Pedri, Gerard Moreno, Ansu Fati, Eric Garcia, Yeremi Pino have all been ruled out of both matches while doubts remain over midfielder Mikel Merino’s availability for Sunday’s game against Sweden.
“Our will is so big that it surpasses any difficulties. Yes, we have many injuries, but it also means that the door was opened for new blood that arrived with hunger. I really believe we will win both matches,” Luis Enrique told reporters in Athens.
“I enjoy the pressure. But I’m much more optimistic today, after seeing the boys on the pitch. The rhythm, the quality and the way that they trained made me more confident.”
Having reached the final of the UEFA Nations League earlier this year, Spain, who cannot finish lower than third in Group B, is already guaranteed a spot in at least the playoffs. — Reuters