MX23RW : Monday, April 12 18:31:46| >> :600:1074356:1074356:
Mar 31, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla
SpainSpain
3-1
KosovoKosovo
Olmo (34'), Torres (36'), Moreno (75')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Halimi (70')
Kryeziu (49')

Preview: Spain vs. Kosovo - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's World Cup Qualifying clash between Spain and Kosovo, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Spain will endeavour to keep the pressure on Sweden at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group B when they play host to Kosovo on matchday three this Wednesday.

Luis Enrique's men have taken four points from a possible six in the group so far, whereas Kosovo's opening match saw them suffer a 3-0 defeat to table-toppers Sweden at the weekend.


Match preview

Spain head coach Luis Enrique pictured on March 25, 2021© Reuters

Georgia's Khivcha Kvaratskhelia sent a 15,000-strong crowd into delirium as he broke the deadlock against Spain on the stroke of half time, with the buoyant supporters praying that a dream win over the 2010 World Cup winners was about to turn into a reality in Tbilisi.

However, Ferran Torres managed to restore parity after 56 minutes before Dani Olmo - who was introduced at half time - witnessed his speculative effort sail into the net deep into second-half injury time to propel Spain to victory, although Giorgi Loria got a hand to his effort and arguably should have done better.

It was hardly a vintage performance from Enrique's men, but it nevertheless saw them pick up their first victory in the group after Greece held them to a 1-1 draw last week, but the manager will undoubtedly be demanding a vast improvement from a team who will struggle to challenge for the big prize in their current form.

Spain have now navigated their last five games unbeaten, but only two of those have ended with La Roja taking the spoils and they sit two points behind Sweden at the top of Group B, so it will not be a straightforward path to Qatar for the Iberian nation after two underwhelming performances.

Last week's draw with Greece prevented Spain from chalking up a 10th consecutive victory on home soil, but they have amassed 34 goals and conceded just two on familiar territory during that run, so Kosovo - who sit 111 places below their hosts in the FIFA World Rankings - are unlikely to harbour aspirations of a famous win in Seville.

Sweden's Viktor Claesson in action with Kosovo's Benjamin Kololli on March 28, 2021© Reuters

Kosovo became the second team to feel the wrath of Zlatan Ibrahimovic since his recall to the Sweden setup, as the 39-year-old provided the first assist of the game for Ludwig Augustinsson 12 minutes in on Sunday evening.

Alexander Isak and Sebastien Larsson also made the net ripple as Sweden cruised to a 3-0 victory over Kosovo, whose World Cup Qualifying campaign began in dismal fashion only a few days after a dominant 4-0 friendly victory over Lithuania.

Bernard Challandes's side endured a disheartening Nations League campaign and their competitive fortunes do not look like improving anytime soon, especially seeing as they travel to Seville on an eight-game winless run away from home since overcoming Bulgaria 3-2 in June 2019.

Kosovo's first attempt to qualify for the World Cup Finals four years ago ended in failure, and while the likes of Milot Rashica, Vedat Muriqi and Bersant Celina provide hope for the future, the newly-independent nation would need nothing short of a miracle to book a spot in Qatar 2022.

Wednesday's battle will be the first time that Spain and Kosovo have met since the latter played their first official match in 2014, but they travel to Seville boasting just one clean sheet in their last 10 away matches and are in for a rough ride against Enrique's under-performing crop.

Spain World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • W

Spain form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W

Kosovo World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L

Kosovo form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L


Team News

Spain players celebrate their second goal scored by Dani Olmo on March 28, 2021© Reuters

Spain boss Enrique will certainly freshen things up after a less-than-convincing win in Georgia, starting with Olmo returning to the fold after his pivotal goal, and the RB Leipzig man could replace Bryan Gil in the starting lineup.

Olmo's inclusion would mean another start on the bench for Mikel Oyarzabal, who has appeared as a substitute twice in a row now, while Jose Gaya will hope to return at left-back despite Jordi Alba's brace of assists at the weekend.

Diego Llorente was hooked at half time against Georgia and is expected to make way for returning captain Sergio Ramos - set for his 180th appearance for La Roja - while Rodri and Koke are also expected to reprise their roles in midfield over Sergio Busquets and Fabian Ruiz.

Striker Gerard Moreno was absent for the second game running due to muscular discomfort, but he is expected to be available for this encounter and could push Alvaro Morata for a start up front.

Kosovo winger Bernard Berisha is suspended for this encounter after seeing red against Sweden, but he was never expected to challenge Rashica for a spot in the final third.

Challandes will also have to cope without Valon Berisha and Bersant Celina due to coronavirus restrictions, although the former is injured anyway, so Besar Halimi could move further forward as Idriz Voca is recalled to the team.

Spain possible starting lineup:
Simon; Porro, Ramos, Martinez, Alba; Rodri; Torres, Koke, Pedri, Olmo; Moreno

Kosovo possible starting lineup:
Ujkani; Hadergjonaj, Vojvoda, Aliti, Kololli; Voca, Kryeziu; Rashica, Halimi, Zeneli; Muriqi


SM words green background

We say: Spain 3-0 Kosovo

Spain have not covered themselves in glory over the past two matches, but this game is the perfect opportunity for Enrique's side to show what they are all about and display their attacking qualities. Without two key players in Celina and Berisha, the visitors' hopes of a shock result here a slim to none - even with Spain flattering to deceive - so we can only back a resounding home win this week.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data


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Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates a goal during the clash with Georgia on March 25, 2021
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WC qualification roundup: Ibrahimovic helps Sweden win on return
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