This is the battle everyone’s been waiting for. Spain and France— two teams who have tremendous attacking potential and have ironically been frustrated in trying to break down teams which they were expected to beat.
So, it’s fitting to have them play out a quarter-final at Euro 2012.
Team news: Not much changes expected in the Spanish side. Fernando Torres is expected to start up front and that means Cesc Fabregas will have to settle for a place on the bench. He has been used as an impact player and scored after coming on against Ireland.
For France though, Laurent Koscielny is set to come in for the suspended Philippe Mexes in the middle of defence. The creative Yohan Cabaye will also return to the squad following his recovery from a thigh injury.
Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery both had a niggle but will shake it off to start.
From the camps: Vicente del Bosque remains undecided about his starting XI: “France are difficult opponents and also we have some doubts about the starting line-up, but that is a healthy thing. I haven’t decided on my team yet. We have great players who can play up front. I have always had 23 great players who are important for their clubs, and I can’t use all of them.”
And France coach Laurent Blanc has admitted that Cabaye will certainly start against Spain: “Cabaye is indispensable in terms of how he played in the first two games in the competition, absolutely. I usually say we have to adapt as little as possible to our opponents and play to our own strengths, but they are the best team in the world.”
Did you know: Spain have never won a competitive game against France.
Since losing against the Swiss in the World Cup, Spain have won 16 out of 17 matches.
But the quarter-final stage seems a tough hurdle for them. They have won just one of their nine last eight encounters in major tournaments outright. Otherwise, they either get eliminated or need extra-time and penalties.
In 25 games at major tournaments, only France have been able enough to score more than one goal against Spain (3-1 in WC2006).
France will need Karim Benzema to shine tonight. He has taken 17 shots so far, but has failed to find the net.