GROUP D: SPAIN v SWEDEN
Kick-off Monday, 8pm
Venue Estadio de La Cartuja
On TV Live on RTÉ2
Spain's preparations for Monday's Euro 2020 opener with Sweden may have been dismantled after two Covid-19 positives, but there is also a sense the chaos will make them more determined to get off to a flying start.
Captain Sergio Busquets's positive result on Sunday 6th forced the squad into isolation and halted group training sessions until Saturday, while their final warm-up game against Lithuania was sacrificed and contested by the under-21 side instead.
Defender Diego Llorente also tested positive two days later, adding yet more disarray to their plans, although he has returned to the fold after subsequently testing negative.
"When something of this magnitude happens it obviously has an effect. There's uncertainty and that generates restlessness," coach Luis Enrique said on Thursday.
“Imagine you’re a player who has had a great season and for something like this you risk missing a tournament that comes around every four years.”
The positive results have also prevented the team from conducting video analysis of opponents over concerns about gathering indoors, while the players received vaccines on Friday, sparking fears of side-effects before the match.
The instability certainly contrasts with the optimism in the build-up to Spain’s Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 triumphs, but Luis Enrique was still optimistic of his side’s prospects.
“I’ve rarely seen such a great atmosphere between the staff and players,” he added.
“That’s why I only expect positive and beautiful things and can say we’re going to come out fighting.”
Busquets, the only surviving member of the 2010 World Cup-winning side after Sergio Ramos was left out, will miss the Sweden game but is set to return to face Poland.
Experienced leaders may be few and far between, yet a fresh crop of hungry youngsters could be exactly what Spain needed after flopping at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and at Euro 2016.
Aymeric Laporte, who switched nationalities from France, is set to partner Pau Torres in defence, while Marcos Llorente should be a lively threat at right back after a tremendous season with La Liga title winners Atlético Madrid.
Spain also have plenty of promise going forward in the form of Dani Olmo, Ferran Torres, Gerard Moreno and Álvaro Morata.
Sweden, who lost 3-0 and drew 1-1 with Spain in qualifying, have also been rocked by Covid-19 positives, which have ruled Dejan Kulusevski and Mattias Svanberg out of the game.
Janne Andersson’s side, who have been training in Gothenburg, may also struggle with the unforgiving heat in Seville, where 27 degrees is expected for kick-off.
Spain have been training at the hottest moments of the day at their Madrid base in order to acclimatise.
Enrique's side will also be roared on by about 16,000 fans at La Cartuja stadium, which replaced Bilbao's San Mamés as a venue two months ago due to concerns over coronavirus restrictions in the Basque Country.