International Preview and Prediction: Spain vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Spain vs. England

Venue: Estadio José Rico Pérez – Friday, November 13 – 19:45 GMT (14:45 ET)

Match Odds: Spain 3/4 – Draw 12/5 – England  4/1

Match Preview

Spain host England at Estadio José Rico Pérez on Friday night as the two sides lock horns for the first time since 2011. The Spanish national team, as you would expect, is loaded with talent but a few key players are missing.

As with any International Friendly, this gives the head coaches a chance to rotate and experiment, but given the strength of both squads, the game has the makings of a good one.

Spain have won their last five on the bounce and are unbeaten in six. The last meeting between the sides was back in 2011 at Wembley in a game which was settled by a single Frank Lampard goal.

The two haven’t met on Spanish turf since 2009, where the hosts last came out on top as 2-0 winners, with David Villa and Fernando Llorente netting on that occasion.

Six Premier League players have made the squad for Spain, including four Chelsea players in Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez and Diego Costa, which comes as a surprise given their abysmal season with the Blues so far. Manchester United’s David de Gea could start in goal, while Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla will look to make an impact from midfield.

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England have enjoyed some of their best form to date since the World Cup in 2014. They are unbeaten in their last 15 and have scored an impressive 16 goals in their last five outings.

Roy Hodgson has opted for a squad full of young players who will see this as a chance to make a lasting impression with the European Championships just around the corner. The Tottenham midfield duo of Dele Alli and Eric Dier will be hoping for minutes on the pitch, while their teammate Harry Kane is expected to feature.

England captain Wayne Rooney has struggled for consistent form so far this season with Manchester United but is always likely to produce for the national team.

This is a good chance for Hodgson to pick up a positive result in Spain but he will be focusing on getting the best out of his players and looking for consistency to continue with Euro 2016 now just seven months away.

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Team News

Spain have recalled Diego Costa to the side. The Chelsea forward has only played nine times for his adopted nation, scoring just once. One to watch is Paco Alcacer, the Valencia forward has netted five in five this season. The usual suspects for Spain are expected to play some part in this one, with the likes a Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Isco and Koke all making the squad. Sergio Ramos and Juanfran have withdrawn due to injury.

England have had just the one withdrawal from the squad as James Milner will miss both this and the France game. Tottenham’s impressive start to the Premier League season has seen four of their inform stars make the squad. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy will be itching to make an impression as they have been in incredible form so far in their domestic seasons. Kane has six goals and Vardy has 12 so far this campaign.

Key Points

Spain’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England are unbeaten in their last 15 outings and have scored 16 goals in their last five games.

Key Player: Paco Alcacer – So long as the Spanish forward starts he will be looking to punish the England defence. His five in five for Valencia have alerted a number of European clubs and the 22-year-old certainly doesn’t lack confidence.

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Score Prediction

Spain 1-1 England – Neither side will want to lose this one and with recent form taken into consideration they are hard to split. Both sides have a two tough fixtures in this international break and domestic managers will have issued strict warnings to both Vicente del Bosque and Roy Hodgson that they don’t want any unnecessary injuries to their players. That could result in a cagey draw.

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Chelsea and Bayern to battle for Atletico Madrid superstar – report

Chelsea have reportedly joined Bayern Munich in the race for Antoine Griezmann but Atletico Madrid don’t intend to sell their prized asset, reports Spanish media outlet AS.

The Frenchman joined Atletico last summer from Real Sociedad for £24 million, signing a huge six year contract, and has been a revelation after netting 22 times in 37 league games.

Bayern were reported to have sent scouts to watch Griezmann in the Champions League last 16 game at Bayer Leverkusen, and have been impressed with what they see. The German giants are reportedly willing to match his huge €65 million release clause as they will eventually look to replace wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.

Chelsea also have the financial firepower to complete a deal but would need to sell a couple of players first to keep within the Financial Fair Play regulations.

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Atletico coach Diego Simone sees Griezmann as part of a new wave of talent they can’t afford to lose, including teammates Koke, Diego Godin and goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Chelsea have also been linked with Koke and Godin.

Griezmann is said to be happy in the Spanish capital after spending the last decade in Spain, though he could double his salary with a move to the Premier League or the Bundesliga.

If Chelsea or Bayern meet the release clause, Atletico are powerless to stop a deal from being completed. With the European Championships in France next season, Griezmann is likely to be part of his country’s attack so delivering strong performances on a weekly basis as he has this year is a must for the player.

Jose Mourinho is thought to be optimistic a deal can be struck, having negotiated deals with Atletico last summer over the signings of Diego Costa and Filipe Luis, who both joined Chelsea.

Could Antoine Griezmann leave Atletico Madrid this summer? Would a move to Chelsea make sense?

Former Arsenal striker urges Gunners to make shock move for Spurs legend

Former Arsenal striker John Hartson has urged Arsene Wenger to consider making a shock move for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale this summer to ensure the club don’t fall behind their Premier League rivals.

Hartson believes former Spurs superstar, Bale, would be the perfect signing to show ambition on the Gunners’ front as they look to mount a serious title challenge next season.

“They [Arsenal] are not strong enough to win the league so what they’ve got to do is go and invest in the best players available,” Hartson told talkSPORT on Sunday.

“He’s out there but are Arsenal the type of club to go and shock the world and go in for Gareth Bale? I don’t know.

“The thing is, if he becomes available, you know Chelsea are going to go in for him and you know Manchester United are going to go in for him. You know that already. Chelsea have got the money and the ambition and Manchester United are showing their ambition right now.

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“For Arsenal to go and compete and appease the supporters and to stop them moaning, they’ve got to go and make a stand and go in for Bale because you know Chelsea and Manchester United will if he becomes available.”

Wenger has turned to Liga BBVA over the past two seasons for the marquee signings of Mesut Ozil from Madrid and Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, but a move for Bale would certainly go down as one of the biggest shocks in world football.

Manchester United are heavily linked with a move for Bale this summer as he looks unsettled in Spain, so a return to England could be on the cards, but a return to north London with Arsenal may be a stretch too far given his heroics for Spurs prior to joining Madrid for a world record transfer fee in 2013.

Would Gareth Bale return to the Premier League with Arsenal? Would Arsenal fans want to see the former Spurs legend in their team?

Manchester United to make THIRD attempt at signing £100m superstar

Manchester United could be set to break the world transfer record by making a £100 million move for Real Madrid star Gareth Bale this summer, according to the Telegraph.

Bale has twice been the subject of United approaches but Louis Van Gaal could finally bring the Welshman to Old Trafford this summer, if Real decide to sell.

United tried to sign the 25-year-old attacker from Southampton before he joined Tottenham in 2007, while they also attempted to beat Real Madrid to his signing in 2013 with a reported £100 million bid at the last minute.

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The same amount could be offered to the Spanish giants this summer and United could do so without breaking Financial Fair Play rules as a result of their huge Adidas kit deal which will come into effect next season, while a return to the Champions League will also increase their financial muscle.

Bale has struggled to replicate the form he showed during his first season in Madrid and has come under pressure from supporters in recent months. He has family in the UK and is expected to return to the Premier League at some point, though he is keen to stay in Spain for at least another season.

United need six points from their final four games to ensure they qualify for next season’s Champions League and that could see Van Gaal go on a huge summer spending spree as he attempts to make the Red Devils a genuine title challenger in the top flight next year.

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As well as targeting Bale, the Red Devils are expected to try and sign Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne and PSV Eindhoven winger Memphis Depay.

Bale won the PFA Player of the Year award in his final season with Spurs after scoring 21 goals in 33 league appearances before moving to Real Madrid for a world record £85 million in the summer of 2013, but has been linked with a return to England this summer, with Chelsea and Manchester City also interested.

Would Gareth Bale be the signing to help Manchester United challenge for the title next season? Should they pay £100 million for him?

Liverpool set to sign ‘young Pirlo’ from Barcelona despite Arsenal interest

Liverpool are looking to beat Arsenal to the signing of young Barcelona star Sergi Samper and look set to make a move for the midfielder this summer, according to Fichajes.net.

The 20-year-old defensive midfield ace is viewed as one of the best young talents in European football but has struggled to break into the Barcelona first-team and is now looking likely to leave the Catalan giants.

Samper, who has also been linked with a move to Arsenal in the past, has been compared to Italian legend Andrea Pirlo because of his incredible range of passing from a deep position and would be a great signing for the Reds.

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Brendan Rodgers will need to bring in at least one central midfielder this summer as Steven Gerrard is on his way to MLS with LA Galaxy, while Jordan Henderson is being targeted by Chelsea and Manchester City.

Samper may only be 20, but he has shown plenty of promise in Barca’s B team, and would want to see regular first-team action with a move to Anfield.

The Spaniard has made 27 appearances for the Barcelona B squad this season but he has been limited to just four outings for the first-team.

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He made his debut in the Champions League back in September, playing 90 minutes against Apoel Nicosia, and went on to make three appearances in the Copa Del Rey for Luis Enrique’s side.

Samper’s contract at Barcelona runs until 2017 but the player reportedly has a release clause of around £7 million and could be on his way to Anfield.

Highlights: Sergi Samper in action this season (via FootyScoutHD on YouTube):

Would Sergi Samper be a good signing for Liverpool?

Transfer BLOW for United, Chelsea and Arsenal as young Belgian star set for Atletico

One of Europe’s brightest young talents, Youri Tielemans, looks to have snubbed interest from the Premier League to join Liga BBVA side Atletico Madrid, according to Spanish publication AS.

The 17-year-old Anderlecht midfielder is viewed as one of the best young players in world football and has been scouted by Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.

The Blues were watching Tielemans just last month but Jose Mourinho looks to have been beaten by Atletico Madrid to the signing of the youngster.

According to AS, the Belgium Under-21 star has agreed to join Diego Simeone at Atletico from next season as “representatives from the Spanish capital club held a meeting with emissaries from Anderlecht, including their managing director, and they established the basis of an agreement.”

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Tielemans has just over a year remaining on his current deal with Anderlecht, with the Belgian club keen to tie him down to a new five-year deal, but the 2014 Belgian Talent of the Year now looks set to leave after being watched by some of the world’s biggest clubs for the past two years.

Tielemans made his Champions League debut at the age of 16 in October 2013 – becoming the youngest Belgian to play in Europe’s elite competition.

He has made 41 appearances in all competitions for Anderlecht this season, scoring five goals with five assists.

Atletico Madrid are keen to bolster their midfield ahead of next season and the capture of Tielemans will be a signing that will excite supporters as the young star is tipped for great things.

Will Atletico Madrid be a good destination for Youri TIelemans? Or would a move to the Premier League have suited him better?

MLS TV views up 53% in the UK this weekend, more than top European games

Major League Soccer is growing here in the UK at an alarming rate and the Sky Sports television deal is clearly helping that. This weekend saw a 53% rise in the number of people watching the live 9PM game between New York City FC and New England Revolution on Sunday night.

Over 55,000 people tuned in to watch NYCFC record their first ever win as an MLS franchise in their historic home opener as they beat the Revs 2-0. 36,000 fans watched NYCFC’s game with Orlando City last Sunday at the same time so 19,000 more fans tuned in in what is an impressive increase.

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One downside was the number of Brits who stayed up late to watch the 11PM game between the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy. Only 13,000 stayed up for that 2-2 draw at Providence Park – almost half of the 25,000 people who stayed awake for last weekend’s late game.

The Sky deal is clearly boosting MLS across the pond though and this weekend saw more British supporters watching NYCFC vs New England than those who tuned in to see Lionel Messi’s Barcelona against Eibar (35,000) on Saturday.

That Liga BBVA game was live on Sky at the same time as the Premier League clash between Burnley and Manchester City though and that obviously had an effect.

The key for Major League Soccer this weekend was that both games were aired on Sky Sports’ primary channel, Sky Sports 1, whereas last week saw the games shown on Sky Sports 3.

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The 55k Brits who watched the 9PM match were more than those who watched games from some of Europe’s top leagues this weekend, including the Bundesliga clash between Borussia Dortmund and Cologne (21,000), French league action between Bordeaux and PGG (25,000) and a considerable amount more than those who watched the Serie A clash between Cagliari and Empoli (6,000).

These are evidently great signs for MLS and an ever-increasing support base from the UK will only help the league grow into an elite league even faster.

Next weekend’s live coverage on Sky will see NYCFC in action for the third week running as they travel to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at 8PM before showing the Eastern Conference clash between New York Red Bulls and DC United at 9PM on Sunday night.

Both games are on Sky Sports 5 this weekend and it will be intriguing to see if the number of UK fans tuning in rises for a third consecutive week.

How important do you think a strong UK fanbase is for the growth of MLS?

Five facts about new Houston Dynamo signing Raul Rodriguez

The Houston Dynamo have bolstered their defence ahead of the 2015 season by signing Spanish defender Raul Rodriguez from Liga BBVA side RCD Espanyol.

The 27-year-old cancelled the remaining six months of his contract with Espanyol yesterday so that a move to Houston could go through without the need for a transfer fee and he has expressed his delight at joining Owen Coyle at the Dynamo in MLS.

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“I’m very excited to join the Houston Dynamo,” Rodríguez told the club’s official website. “This move represents a great challenge for me in my career with the growth of MLS.

“The Dynamo are an ambitious club with a clear vision and I’m excited to be a part of this project. Houston is a great city with a lot of possibilities for me and my family. I can’t wait to join my teammates and coaches and get to work.”

Here are five facts about the Dynamo’s new signing:

1. Rodriguez has spent the last five seasons in Liga BBVA with RCD Espanyol

The versatile defender has been with Espanyol since 2010, and started off with the club’s B-side. He went on to make 80 first-team appearances without scoring a goal but only saw one minute of league action this season before terminating his contract with the club.

2. He was handed his Espanyol debut by now Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino

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Mauricio Pochettino signed Raul Rodriguez when he was the Espanyol coach in the summer of 2010 and then called him up to the senior squad for his debut in November that year, coming on in the last minute of a 3-2 away win at Atletico Madrid.

3. Rodriguez has represented the Catalonia National Team on one occasion

Although he has never appeared for the Spanish National Team, Rodriguez has one international cap to his name after playing for the Catalonia National Team in 2011, which was then managed by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.

The team is not affiliated with either FIFA or UEFA but is the official football team of the Spanish community of Catalonia and some of Spain’s best players such as Gerard Pique, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets all played for the team on the same day that Rodriguez made his sole appearance.

4. He man-marked Cristiano Ronaldo a year ago and kept him quiet

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Rodriguez was given the tough task of man marking Cristiano Ronaldo in a Copa Del Rey clash against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last January, after being played at right-back, and he managed to keep the Portugal star quiet.

Ronaldo didn’t make an impact on the game, though Madrid still won 1-0 thanks to a Jese Rodriguez goal.

5. He helped Espanyol keep a clean sheet in both of his final two games for the club last month

Despite only seeing a minute of first-team action in the league this season, Rodriguez was played in both legs of the Copa Del Rey games against Deportivo Alaves in December. He played a full 90 minutes at centre-back in both legs and helped his side to 2-0 and 1-0 wins to advance.

He will now hope to have a similar impact in Houston as the Dynamo will look to Rodriguez to shore up their defence after they conceded 50 goals last year and kept just ten clean sheets.

The Dynamo have been moved to the Western Conference this season and that will ensure that Raul Rodriguez and the rest of the Houston defence are kept busy as Major League Soccer’s best attacking sides are in the Western Conference too.

Is Raul Rodriguez a good signing for the Houston Dynamo?

Could David Villa be on his way to New York?

David Villa has emerged as a shock transfer target for the new MLS franchise New York City FC and the Spaniard could be set to leave Atletico Madrid this summer.

Reports in Spain suggest he is close to agreeing a three-year contract with the New York City side who share the same owners as English Premier League club Manchester City.

Former director of Barcelona, Txiki Begiristain now of Manchester City, persuaded David Villa to leave Valencia and join the Catalan giants in 2010, and will be a huge influence on him joining the New York club.

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Having won Liga BBVA again with current club Atletico Madrid, he could be set for a fresh challenge and a move to America could be just that.

Villa would surely be a designated player as New York City FC look to take the MLS by storm in their debut season next year.

The 32-year-old, who has 224 La Liga goals to his name, would be a huge coup for New York City and MLS.

The new franchise have also been linked with Villa’s Spanish compatriot Xavi, with New York City prepared to offer him a lucrative three-year contract as well.

Will David Villa make the move to MLS?