Experimental Spain offers Ukraine Euros chance
Ukraine have the chance to qualify for Euro 2016 when they host an already qualified and under-strength Spain in Kiev on Monday.
The trip east brings back good memories for Spain as the Olympic Stadium in Kiev was the scene of their 4-0 win over Italy in the final of Euro 2012 to seal back-to-back European Championships.
Vicente del Bosque’s men will be among the favourites once more for next year’s finals in France after mathematically sealing their place with a 4-0 stroll over Luxembourg on Friday.
However, it will be a much-changed side that starts against Ukraine as Del Bosque offers a chance to a bunch of fringe players to impress while also seeing his options reduced by injuries.
David Silva and Alvaro Morata haven’t travelled after being forced off early on against Luxembourg, whilst Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta were already absent due to injury.
David de Gea, Juan Bernat, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Alcantara and Isco are all expected to come in from the start.
All five are under 26 as Spain attempt to rebuild from the disaster of their World Cup defence in Brazil last year.
“The final against Italy in 2012 was probably the best game we have played with me as national team coach,” Del Bosque said on Sunday.
“We come here again in an ideal situation. It has been our objective for a few games, but we will play with all the interest and courage in the world.
“Ukraine have the chance of qualifying, whether it be as second or third in the group, but as sportsmen we have to try and stop them.”
Ukraine have everything to play for, but will most likely need to beat the European champions to book their ticket to France.
Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side are level on points with Slovakia in the battle for the second automatic qualifying spot in Group C.
However, their inferior head-to-head record with the Slovaks means they will have to better their result away at Luxembourg to move up to second.
Alternatively, Ukraine will also automatically qualify as the best third-placed side with a victory.
“The Spaniards can change formation or players, but the result is normally the same — they beat everyone,” Fomenko told the Ukranian Federation’s website.
“It all depends on our guys. They understand that whoever comes in for Spain, it will be a very difficult match. Hopefully God will grant us a positive result.”