Spain plays host to Finland on Friday at the Estadio El Molinón in Gijón, Spain as they continue their defense of their World Cup title.
- (Photo: Reuters/file)
Spanish manager Vincente Del Bosque has the privilege of coaching the top players in the world, but will have to adjust his regular starting lineup after several key players sustained injuries in recent weeks.
Midfielder Xavi Hernandez continues to suffer from a hamstring injury and is expected to sit out the qualifier against Finland. Bosque will also be without captain Carles Puyol, who continues to rehabilitate a knee injury. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas will be out for several more weeks after breaking his hand.
But even with those injured players, the Spanish manager chose to leave out troubled Chelsea striker Fernando Torres as well as Javi Martinez, considering the recent poor playing both players have exhibited.
It was also rumored that Cesc Fabregas will be starting and assuming the role of a supporting striker or offensive midfielder to back up Pedro and David Silva in the final third.
Finland manager Mixu Paatelainen will have to face the giants of Europe without Alexei Eremenko, who is suspended after getting sent off in the 1-1 draw against Georgia. Perparim Hetemaj has been seen as the likely replacement to the Rubin Kazan striker and will have the pressure of knowing that Finland has only won three of their last nine international matches.
Finland, who is currently ranked 87th in the world, will need to be focused going into the game and forget the fact they have never qualified for a major tournament.
They will have to overcome Spain's 18-match unbeaten streak, which stretches back to November 2011. La Roja has won three of their last four matches against Finland, and the last time Finland beat Spain came in a World Cup qualifier was in June of 1969.
History could also be made on Friday night, with Sergio Ramos poised to become the eighth player in Spanish football history to earn 100 caps.
Kick-off for the match is at 3:45 p.m. ET and can be watched online here.