Europian U21 Spain U21 v Macedonia U21 : Spain with top-class quality
Spain U21 v Macedonia U21
Saturday 17th June, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports
Despite needing to come through a nerve-shredding play-off against Austria to secure their place in the competition, Spain are widely tipped by many for glory.
The Iberians were forced to settle for second spot in Group 6 behind defending champions Sweden before progressing via the play-offs. Nevertheless, no second-placed side scored as many goals as La Rojita (31) en-route and it's easy to see why the Spaniards are so heavily fancied.
Albert Celades' star-studded squad is packed with top-class quality, including Champions League winner Marco Asensio, Gerard Deulofeu and Inaki Williams to name just a few.
The boss surprisingly excluded midfielder Oliver Torres and striker Munir El Haddadi from his roster despite both playing instrumental roles in qualification with in-form Valencia's Carlos Soler and Malaga's Sandro Ramirez taking their place, highlighting the strength in depth of Spanish football.
Athletic Bilbao's Kepa Arrizabalaga should announce himself as one of Europe's top goalkeeping prospects, while the defence - Hector Bellerin and Jose Luis Gaya as full-backs, plus Jorge Mere and Jesus Vallejo in the middle - is as good as you'll come across in this competition.
Marcos Llorente should anchor Saul Niguez and Denis Suarez in a frightening midfield with Williams and Asensio and Deulofeu all pushing for starting berths behind the main striker. La Rojita do lack a goalscorer with pedigree at his level with Sandro or Borja Mayoral the main challengers to lead the line.
Spain's U21s 1.23 play a more direct brand of football than the senior side thanks to their traditional touchline-huggers and although the disparity in quality between the pre-tournament favourites and opposition on Saturday is large, I'm not convinced this will be a whitewash.
More than half of Macedonia's squad boast senior experience and Blagoja Milevski's are determined to do more than just make up the numbers after an impressive qualifying campaign that ousted France.
Macedonia 19.00 have repeatedly defied their doubters, fielding a relatively settled side that's based around a well-organised approach and strong defence. Gjoko Zajkov and Darko Velkoski formed a solid centre-back partnership and the underdogs reeled off a number of clean sheets in qualification.
The most capped player and top scorer David Babunski should play in the number 10 role having come through the ranks at Barcelona and the attacking midfielder will carry Macedonia's offensive hopes.
Despite their fairytale progression, Macedonia face an uphill struggle to make much of an impression in a tough group but are certainly capable of keeping this encounter respectable and competitive.
The outsiders held France home and away en-route to Poland whilst Spain have only beaten Estonia, San Marino and Georgia by more than a one-goal margin in competitive action at this level since 20014. With that in mind, supporting Macedonia with a +2 handicap start seems a fair angle to take at 6/5.
Back Macedonia +2 handicap [6/5]
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