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Preview: Ukraine vs. Spain

Sports Mole looks ahead to Spain's final Euro 2016 qualifier away in Ukraine, who still have hopes of finishing second.

Having secured their place at Euro 2016 as group winners against Luxembourg on Friday night, Spain will conclude their qualifying campaign in Ukraine on Monday evening.

But, while there is little riding on the outcome of the encounter for Vicente del Bosque's men, the home side still have a slim chance of finishing as runners-up.


Ukraine

Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko (C) celebrates after scoring during the Euro 2016 qualifyinvg round - Group C football match between Ukraine and Belarus at Arena Lviv stadium in Lviv on September 5, 2015© Getty Images

Since becoming an independent nation from Russia, the only European Championships that Ukraine have appeared in was the one that they co-hosted alongside Poland three years ago.

This time around Mykhailo Fomenko's men have the opportunity to qualify off the their own back, although whether it will be automatically or the via playoffs will be determined in part by the events in Kiev.

As it stands the Yellows have the same number of points as second-placed Slovakia (19), but they sit in third position due to their inferior head to head record. It means that to book their place in France without the need of those extra two games, Ukraine must better the outcome of Slovakia's trip to Luxembourg.

They will certainly head into this contest with plenty of optimism, given that of their last 16 home encounters, defeat has been suffered only once.

Not only that, Ukraine have Group C's joint best defensive record with Spain, having shipped just three goals in nine outings, while their return of 14 goals is only bettered by Monday's visitors.

Also, in winger Andriy Yarmolenko, they reportedly have one Europe's most sought-after players. The Dynamo Kiev winger has scored four goals in qualifying so far, thanks in part to the hat-trick that he fired in against Luxembourg last November.

Recent form: WLWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWDW


Spain

Head coach Vicente Del Bosque of Spain faces the media during a press conference ahead of their international friendly match against Bolivia at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on May 29, 2014© Getty Images

As already has been mentioned, La Roja announced their presence at next summer's competition with a game to spare. But, the big questions is - have they recovered from the events of 2014 World Cup?

Del Bosque's charges went into the tournament as the winner of the three previous major international events, but they crashed out in the group stages.

The Spanish Football Federation kept with 64-year-old Del Bosque, who has since overseen a positive qualifying campaign that to date has yielded a return of 24 points from a possible 27.

However, it has not all been positive, particularly where centre-back Gerard Pique is concerned. The Barcelona player has been jeered by large number of Spain supporters following his comments in the summer that mocked Real Madrid's trophyless 2014-15 season. Pique has also not been shy in voicing his support for the Catalan independence movement, which is a topic of much tension in the Iberian nation.

On the field, Spain have lost just one of their last 12 away matches in European Championships qualifiers - a run that dates back to 2006.

In addition, they have kept clean sheets in each of their last three trips, scoring six goals in the process.

Recent form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWW


Team News

Spain's David Silva celebrates after scoring during the Group C Euro 2016 qualifying football match Luxembourg vs Spain at the Josy Barthel stadium in Luxembourg, on October 12, 2014.© Getty Images

Manchester City playmaker David Silva and Juventus striker Alvaro Morata both picked up injuries last time out against Luxembourg and so they will not make the trip to Eastern Europe.

Sergio Ramos, Daniel Carvajal and Andres Iniesta have also been ruled out with fitness concerns, while Chelsea frontman Diego Costa was not selected in the squad.

Meanwhile, recent speculation has suggested that Del Bosque will use this fixture as the chance to hand debuts to Mario Gaspar and Xabier Etxeita, who play for Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

As for the home team, Yevhen Khacheridi and Sergey Sydorchuk will be missing through suspension, with their places likely to be claimed by Oleksandr Kucher and Denys Garmash.

Midfielder Taras Stepanenko should also be included, having been rested for the recent encounter against Macedonia.

Ukraine possible starting lineup:
Pyatov; Fedetskiy, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk; Rotan, Stepanenko, Garmash; Yarmolenko, Kravets, Konoplyanka

Spain possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Mario, Nacho, Etxeita, Azpilicueta; Thiago, San Jose, Isco; Mata, Alcacer, Nolito


Head To Head

When these two sides met earlier in the campaign, it was Spain that won through 1-0 thanks to Morata's first goal at senior international level.

That extended Spain's head to head record over Ukraine to 3-0, with the other encounter - in March 2003 - ending in a 2-2 draw.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Ukraine 2-1 Spain

With Spain likely to make a number of changes, it could well be Ukraine that prosper in this encounter. Their need is greater that the visitors, which should be enough to ensure that the hosts claim all three points.



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Spain's forward Alvaro Morata celebrates after scoring a goal with Spain's midfielder Isco, Spain's forward David Silva and Spain's defender Jordi Alba (R), during the EURO 2016 qualifier football match Spain vs Ukraine at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadiu
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