Spain welcome Georgia to Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Sunday for a Euro 2024 qualifying showdown as the hosts look to seal the top spot in Group A.
The job for Spain is effectively complete, as their place at the Euro 2024 next summer has already been guaranteed with two matches in Group A spare, one of those being against Georgia. But they will be going all out to continue their recent good form and ensure they top Scotland to the summit spot.
The hosts have not had things all their own way in this qualifying campaign. After a rocky start to the campaign where they lost at Hampden, La Roja have resumed normal service and again look like one of the favourites for the finals in Germany.
Luis de la Fuente’s men cruised to a comfortable win in Cyprus on Thursday to go two points clear of a Scotland side, who needed a last-gasp Lawrence Shankland goal to prevent yet another defeat in Tbilisi. Now, the hosts will want to make it seven wins out of eight in Group A when they entertain Georgia in Valladolid.
Georgia, meanwhile, have no chance of progressing to the next round via this path. But they have not let themselves down across the group stage and will have the play-offs to look forward to thanks to their performances in the UEFA Nations League.
They followed up a 4-0 victory over Cyprus with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Scotland on Thursday. They had twice taken the lead through Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia but suffered a late heartbreak, leaving them in fourth place in the table on eight points.
Spain hammered Sunday’s opponents 7-1 when they both met in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
Team News and Tactics
🦅 Is it a bird?
🛩️ Is it a plane?
😱 NO, IT'S ÁLEX REMIRO IN ACTION!!!
What acrobatics from the @RealSociedadEN goalkeeper in training this morning.
— Spanish Football (@SpainIsFootball) November 17, 2023
Aymeric Laporte is the big-name absentee from the Spanish squad, while Pedri is also unavailable for the November international break. Manchester City midfielder Rodri was not risked against minnows Cyprus last time out after reporting discomfort in training, and it is unclear whether he will feature against Georgia.
The same goes for Valencia left-back Jose Gaya, who is dealing with a knee injury. Mikel Oyarzabal will not play against Georgia after suffering a hamstring injury in the game against Cyprus, so he has been sent back to his club for further tests.
Spain’s head coach, Luis de la Fuente, fielded a mixed starting XI in the game against Cyprus, giving players who had limited action during European Championship qualifying, such as David Raya, Jesus Navas, and Alex Grimaldo, a chance. Spain are likely to deploy a mixed lineup against Georgia on Sunday.
Nico Williams is a strong contender to deputise for Oyarzabal, while his Unai Simon could come back in between the sticks here. Barcelona wonderkid Lamine Yamal continued his remarkable progress when the 16-year-old netted in midweek in Cyprus. But he will have to settle for a spot on the bench here.
The manager will look to replace personnel in attack, with Ferran Torres coming in to support Alvaro Morata, who is expected to start in the No. 9 role. De la Fuente is expected to retain most of his midfielders from the last game. Mikel Merino and Gavi are likely to remain in the No. 8 roles, while Martin Zubimendi could replace the injured Rodri in the holding role.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Simon; Carvajal, Le Normand, Torres, Grimaldo; Gavi, Zubimendi, Merino; Torres, Morata, Williams
All of Georgia’s star names are present in the ranks for November’s fixtures, with Giorgi Tsitaishvili and Giorgi Beridze unable to force their way back into the team. Not a single uncapped player has been called up by head coach Willy Sagnol, although he has lost Gabriel Sigua to injury.
Georgia have a couple of fresh injury concerns, as Levan Shengelia (shoulder) and Luka Lochoshvili (unknown) were both forced off in the second half against Scotland. Shengelia, for one, was seen clutching his shoulder before having to be pulled off, so it may not be risked given the quick turnaround. Irakli Azarovi is in line to deputise at left wing-back.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) November 18, 2023
Napoli hero Khvicha Kvaratskhelia netted a double against Scotland and was a real thorn in the Scots’ side. While his move from Metz to Ajax has not gone as planned, 23-year-old striker Georges Mikautadze, who has gone six games without scoring for his new club, is undoubtedly poised to accompany Kvaratskhelia in the attacking third.
Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Mamardashvili; Gocholeishvili, Kashia, Kvirkvelia, Kalandadze, Azarovi; Kvekveskiri, Chakvetadze, Kochorashvili; Mikautadze, Kvaratskhelia
- The two teams have faced each other five times in all competitions so far, with just one of the meetings coming in European Championship qualifiers. As expected, the mighty Spain have the upper hand in the head-to-head record, with five wins to their name to the visitors’ one.
- The last three clashes between them have produced over 2.5 goals, including a comprehensive 7-1 win for the hosts in the reverse fixture.
- Spain are on a five-game winning streak in Euro qualifying.
- Spain have the second-best attacking record in the qualifiers thus far, scoring 22 goals in seven games.
- La Roja won their last seven Euro qualifying home games without conceding.
Player to Watch
Alvaro Morata looks to have spent his whole career on the verge of bursting into life and achieving his potential as a prolific striker. However, the 30-year-old Atletico Madrid striker is exhibiting all the indications that 2023/24 is indeed his year, firing on all cylinders up front for club and country. He has 12 goals and three assists to his name from 15 La Liga and Champions League outings.
Not to mention, he scored a hat-trick when playing against this opposition away from home at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena. A similar goalscoring display could be expected here as he inches one step closer to becoming one of Spain’s most successful goal-scorers.
If he is not one already, that is. Morata is a way off La Roja’s record talisman, David Villa, who leads the charts with 59 strikes. Following his recent performances in coach Luis de la Fuente’s lineup during the October international break, which included a game-winning header against Scotland, he can instead look to overtake former forward Fernando Torres, four ahead on 38, and perhaps even match the great Raul, with 44, further down the line.
Spain 3-0 Georgia
Spain might not quite replicate the seven goals they rattled in against Georgia in that September reverse meeting. But they should still be far too hot for their opponents to handle. The Georgians put a lot of effort into their last Euro 2024 qualifier match against the Scots, and they looked drained and legged long before the game was over.
A long night in Valladolid chasing shadows against a technically proficient Spain is the last thing they want, and it could get messy for them. Expect Spain to go several goals up inside the first half before easing off.