This week, LaLiga has been put to one side to make way for a Spain double-header, with the senior side and the under-21s both taking centre stage. For many, this interruption of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s pursuit of Atlético, who are about the enter the “Luis Aragonés zone” – the final 10 days of the season – is unfortunate. People tend to get excited about Spain when tournaments begin, when the focus is fully on international football largely because club concerns are on hold for the summer. But qualifying tournaments rarely get the collective pulse racing: we assume that Spain will qualify before a ball has been kicked and that leads to a lack of interest in games against nations with smaller talent pools and against whom there is little in the way of a tradition of historical encounters or fond memories to whet the appetite.
The under-21s are in action at a tournament finals, the 2021 European Championship, and raised the curtain on their Group B campaign with a solid 3-0 win over host nation Slovenia ahead of a meeting with Italy on Saturday. La Rojita are without several players who due to their age could be representing the junior side because Luis Enrique has enlisted them to help Spain’s qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup: Pedro Porro, Eric García, Dani Olmo, Bryan Gil, Ferran Torres and Pedri, who has taken the mantle of the revelation player of the year from his Barcelona teammate Ansu Fati. Still, Luis de la Fuente has still put together a fine under-21 side who recovered from Slovenia’s industrial approach to record a well-deserved win and get the Euros off to a flying start.
Zlatan and Sweden are Spain’s only concern
On Thursday it is the turn of the senior side as they take on Greece in Granada, where Spain have a record of seven wins from seven games. The Spanish Football Federation has taken the opportunity to unveil a new logo, which was hardly necessary and is far from inspiring, but you can draw your own conclusions on that. What does matter is winning the game and, if possible, with Pedri on the pitch. The Barça youngster has the making of a truly great player and the thought of flicking on the television to watch him is one of genuine excitement. Luis Enrique never reveals his XI ahead of time so we will have to wait to see if Pedri gets the nod. With him or without him Spain have a side capable of beating Greece and winning the other two fixtures in this international break. The only opponent of any real concern is Sweden, and even more so now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in the national fold, but that game is one to worry about later.