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Preview: Kosovo vs. Spain - prediction, team news, lineups
08/09/2021 14:23:20

Spain will look to build on a dominant 4-0 win over Georgia when they return to World Cup Qualifying action on Wednesday (7:45PM, 8 Sept), with a trip to take on Kosovo.

La Roja bounced back in style after a defeat to Sweden and will look to round off the international break with another three-point haul, while their hosts will aim to extend their unbeaten run to three games in qualifying.

Match preview

Kosovo began the World Cup Qualifying campaign with a 3-0 home loss at the hands of Sweden, before they were defeated 3-1 by Wednesday's opponents in Sevilla in March.

However, upon their return to the qualifiers in this round of fixtures, Bernard Challandes's side got off the mark with a hard-fought 1-0 away win over Georgia.

Vedat Muriqi put the visitors ahead in the first 20 minutes, and they stood strong to defend that lead and secure all three points.

Muriqi was again the hero last time out, as he netted a 92nd-minute winner to see them draw 1-1 at home to Greece after Anastasios Douvikas had put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half time.

Having fought back to earn an important draw and take their tally to four points last time out, Kosovo would go just three points behind Spain with a game in hand if they can topple La Roja on Wednesday, in their bid to reach a first World Cup.

They face a particularly tough test though, as the visiting nation look to stretch their lead at the top of the group.

While Spain were held to a somewhat disappointing draw by Greece in their opening World Cup Qualifier in March, they bounced back in style with a 2-1 win over Georgia and a 3-1 victory against Wednesday's opponents.

Dani Olmo, Ferran Torres and Gerard Moreno got on the scoresheet as Luis Enrique's men brushed Kosovo aside, before they headed into this summer's European Championships.

Despite a slow start, with their opening group games against Sweden and Poland resulting in draws, Spain progressed to the final 16 thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia, and prevailed in a 5-3 win after extra time against Croatia to break into the quarter-finals.

Their meeting with Switzerland again finished level, and Enrique's men prevailed in a penalty shootout, but would fall short in their semi-final shootout to eventual winners Italy.

Following that relatively impressing run, La Roja returned to World Cup Qualifying action with a clash against Sweden, but fell to a 2-1 defeat as Carlos Soler's fourth-minute opener was immediately cancelled out by Alexander Isak, before Viktor Claesson hit the winner for their opponents on the hour mark.

That saw Sweden move just one point behind with two games in hand, and with only one guaranteed place in the World Cup available for each group, they will be desperate to hold onto top spot.

They maintained their position at the summit with a 4-0 thrashing of Georgia last time out, as Jose Gaya, Soler, Torres and Pablo Sarabia all got on the scoresheet, and they will be aware that they need to continue picking up victories in their bid to fend off Sweden.

Team News

The Kosovo line will be led by Lazio forward Vedat Muriqi, who has found the net in consecutive games to take his tally to 17 goals from 32 international appearances.

Winger Milot Rashica is another key man, having recently moved from Werder Bremen to Premier League outfit Norwich City.

Napoli centre-back Amir Rrahmani offers experience and quality at the heart of their defensive line, while Fidan Aliti could again be given the nod alongside the captain.

Spain came into this round of fixtures without centre-back Pau Torres, midfielder Pedri and attackers Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal, after they were granted holidays having featured in Euro 2020 and the Olympic Games over the summer.

Thiago Alcantara, Fabian Ruiz and Diego Llorente also missed out, while left-back Jose Gaya has been withdrawn after sustaining an injury in the victory over Georgia.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Sergio Reguilon has been called into the squad to replace Gaya, and he will battle with experienced Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba for the starting spot.

Aymeric Laporte also appeared to pick up an injury in that game, but he has been given a positive update, although Enrique is unlikely to risk his star centre-back in the final outing.

Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez was handed his debut last time out, as he came on for Unai Simon in the 74th minute, and he could be given a first start should Enrique rotate his options.

Kosovo possible starting lineup:

Muric; Vojvoda, Rrahmani, Aliti, Hadergjonaj; Halimi, Dresevic, Berisha; Rashica, Muriqi, Kastrati

Spain possible starting lineup:

Sanchez; Azpilicueta, Garcia, Albiol, Alba; Llorente, Rodri, Soler; Torres, Morata, Sarabia

We say: Kosovo 0-3 Spain

Despite Kosovo improving in the latest round of international games, we do not see them having enough to topple La Roja on Wednesday.

Enrique still has a strong squad at his disposal, and they will be keen to impress again with a dominant win as they look to stay ahead of Sweden.

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