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> In­terim man­ager South­gate in fi­nal test for Eng­land job

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

ENG­LAND’S CARE­TAKER man­ager Gareth South­gate faces a man he as­pires to em­u­late in terms of style and sta­tus in to­day’s friendly against Julen Lopetegui’s Spain.

The match at Wem­b­ley will be the fourth and fi­nal as­sign­ment of South­gate’s in­terim stint and fol­low­ing Fri­day’s 3-0 win over Scot­land in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing he is ex­pected to be handed the role full­time.

Like South­gate, Lopetegui earned the faith of his coun­try’s foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion by ex­celling as U-21s coach, while Spain’s con­fi­dent pass­ing game is some­thing South­gate wants Eng­land to repli­cate.

“It’s one of the big­gest chal­lenges that we can face,” South­gate said ahead of the en­counter.

“It looks as though they’ll have a cou­ple of play­ers miss­ing, but they have strength in depth and a clear iden­tity of how they play through all of their age groups.

“Ob­vi­ously Julen has been the U-21 man­ager so he knows how the sys­tem is there. He’s worked with so many of the play­ers and the style, so it’s go­ing to be a huge test for us.”

While Eng­land are un­beaten on South­gate’s watch, they are yet to pro­duce a per­for­mance that has got fans off their seats.

Af­ter a laboured 2-0 win over Malta, they were for­tu­nate not to lose in a 0-0 draw away to Slove­nia.

Against Scot­land they strug­gled to cre­ate chances and might have found them­selves level early in the sec­ond half had the Scots taken their op­por­tu­ni­ties at 1-0.

Eng­land’s ef­forts to build play up from the back were un­con­vinc­ing, but South­gate, 46, will task his play­ers to press on with the tac­tic against a Spain team who are mas­ters of the art.

“It’s a good means of gaug­ing progress be­cause they’ve been one of the best for such a long time,” says Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s Eric Dier, who made his Eng­land de­but in a 2-0 loss away to Spain a year ago.

“You al­ways want to mea­sure your­selves against sides like that, both per­son­ally and as a team. Ob­vi­ously re­sults are what count in se­nior foot­ball but per­form­ing the right way as well is im­por­tant.

“If we de­fend for 90 min­utes and score a last-minute win­ner on Tues­day then prob­a­bly ev­ery­one goes home happy. But that’s not my way of as­sess­ing whether we’ve done well or not.”

Like Eng­land, Spain go into the game on the back of a slightly flat­ter­ing vic­tory that kept them top of their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing pool: in their case a 4-0 win over Mace­do­nia on Satur­day.

Lopetegui, 50, is un­beaten in five games since tak­ing charge af­ter Vi­cente del Bosque stepped down fol­low­ing their last-16 exit at the hands of Italy at Euro 2016.

Both coaches are ex­pected to shuf­fle their start­ing XIs, but for Lopetegui ne­ces­sity will be the mother of in­ven­tion as he is with­out sev­eral first-team play­ers.

Ser­gio Ramos, Ger­ard Pique, Jordi Alba, An­dres Ini­esta and Diego Costa are all ab­sent and Al­varo Mo­rata is a doubt af­ter be­ing forced off half an hour from full­time against Mace­do­nia.

“It is clear that the three points at stake were (against Mace­do­nia) and now we have a fan­tas­tic game against a great na­tional team like Eng­land,” said Lopetegui.

“We want to be com­pet­i­tive and play well, so who­ever plays it will be a good 11.” – AFP

Gareth South­gate... ex­pected to be handed the Eng­land job full­time.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui

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