Spain can convene its most experienced player for its most important match of the European Championship.
Sergio Busquets will return for the match against Slovakia on Wednesday, when “La Roja” faces the possibility of an embarrassing elimination in front of their fans.
A victory for Spain alone will be enough to secure a place in the round of 16 of Euro 2020. A draw may be enough, but only if Poland does not beat Sweden in the other Group E match. Both games will be played simultaneously.
The 32-year-old Busquets, the only player left on the team to win the 2010 World Cup in Spain, did not play in the team’s first two games after testing positive for coronavirus. The Barcelona midfielder had to go into isolation and join the team only on Friday. He did not dress for the match against Poland on Saturday.
“We missed him,” said Spanish defender Cesar Aspilicueta. “We tried to make up for his absence, but Sergio is a key player for this team and we are happy that he is back.”
Rodri Hernandez played for the Busquets in the first two games, a 0-0 draw against Sweden and a 1-1 draw against Poland. The 25-year-old Manchester City midfielder did not play badly, but he did not excel.
Spain coach Luis Enrique has not confirmed Busquets as a starter, but has said he is ready to play from the moment he joins the team.
“I expect Busquets to return to the side to bring higher quality and calm in the middle of the field,” said Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic. “It will be a challenge for us.”
The Spanish Football Federation said Busquets had been chosen to speak with Luis Enrique at the team’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“Sergio is a very important player because of his experience on and off the field,” said Aspilicueta. “He is an amazing captain who helps the whole team. We all know how dominant he is in midfield, both defensively and offensively. “
Aspilicueta himself may be another veteran called in to help the Spanish team, as he faces elimination. The 31-year-old Chelsea right-back has not yet played in Euro 2020, as Luis Enrique chose to use Marcos Llorente in the position.
Jordi Alba had taken over as captain in the absence of the Busquets. Longtime national team captain Sergio Ramos was not called up after playing sparingly in the final part of the season with Real Madrid due to injuries. The decision to keep him out of the squad, even though he would be fit to play until the start of Euro 2020, provoked a lot of criticism against Luis Enrique, with many saying that the team was left without a real leader.
“There are a lot of young players in this group who are playing in such a tournament for the first time and learning,” said Aspilicueta. “Each of us must contribute as much as possible. We have many captains from their clubs who are experienced and they know how to deal with these difficult situations. “
Spain, which has played all its matches in the group in Sevilla, is two points behind leader Sweden and one behind Slovakia, which surprised with an initial 2-1 victory over last place Poland before losing to Sweden 1-0.
Slovakia needs a draw to secure its place in the next round. He is making his second consecutive appearance since his Euro 2016 debut. Both Slovakia and Spain were eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2016. Spain last missed the knockout round in 2004.
Slovakia hopes to stun Spain again, as in 2014, by ending La Roja’s 36-match smooth start in the European Championship or World Cup qualifiers.
“We shocked Spain seven years ago and I dream of it happening again,” said Slovakian captain Marek Hamsik. “You never know in football.”
It remains unclear what support Spain will receive from its fans at La Cartuja Stadium after a video of players ignoring fans at the team hotel last weekend was widely circulated online. There is also uncertainty about the conditions on the pitch at La Cartuja, which has caused complaints from some players after the first two games.
Aspilicueta said Spain should be inspired by Chelsea, who overcame difficulties earlier in the season to win the Champions League title.
“The lesson is that you have to fight to the end,” Aspilicueta said. “A lot of people thought our season was over in January, but we finally made it. It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you end. “