Luis Enrique is in no doubt Spain can compete with the very best in the world after watching his side cruise past the Czech Republic 2-0 in the Nations League on Sunday.

Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia were on target in each half as La Roja moved top of Group A2 following Portugal's 1-0 defeat to Switzerland.

The win, which stretched Spain's unbeaten run to eight games, means their progress to the Nations League finals could be sealed before their final group game against Portugal.

Should they beat Switzerland in their penultimate game and Portugal lose to the Czech Republic, Spain will seal their place in the tournament.

Luis Enrique was pleased with his side's display at La Rosaleda in Malaga, yet acknowledged there is room for improvement.

"I am very satisfied, how can I not be?" he said in a media conference.

"The rival has shown how good they are, in all aspects. We have been quite good, although we lacked some things.

"The atmosphere was wonderful, with lots of cheering and respect for the anthem of the rival. I hope it repeats itself and serves as an example.

"We are leaders and we have been good in general. Ask the rivals what they feel when playing with us. Surely we will compete [against anyone]."

Marco Asensio was particularly bright for Spain, teeing up Soler's goal to move level with Jordi Alba as the joint-highest goal creator under Luis Enrique's leadership (seven assists).

He played more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch, and Luis Enrique says the fact he is not a regular starter at Real Madrid is not an issue.

"I always called him up when I saw him doing well," he said. "Now he has been playing less. We like him and he knows it. There are no doubts with him."

Unai Simon made important saves from Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta before Soler's opener, with Luis Enrique pleased at his goalkeeper's decisiveness. 

"He chose well in decision-making," he added. "He gives us a lot with the ball in aerial aspects. He has been good.

"It gives me a lot of peace of mind, and I am the one who makes decisions. He has saved us and that's what the goalkeeper is for."

Spain made it back-to-back wins to go top of Nations League Group A2 as goals from Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia sealed a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Luis Enrique's side edged past Switzerland on Thursday after opening their campaign with two draws, and they racked up another win at La Rosaleda in Malaga. 

Valencia midfielder Soler scored the opening goal shortly after the midway point in the first half – his third strike at international level.

And substitute Sarabia made sure of all three points in the 75th minute as La Roja usurped Portugal, who lost 1-0 in Switzerland, at the top of the group. 

Unai Simon denied Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta inside the opening 20 minutes as the visitors started brightly.

Yet Spain went ahead with their first attempt on goal in the 24th minute, Soler drilling past Ales Mandous from eight yards after running onto Marco Asensio's pull-back.

Soler then clipped wide soon after as Spain fell short of doubling their advantage before the interval.

Simon pushed away a long-range drive from Alex Kral midway through a tepid second half as both sides struggled to build any momentum. 

That was until Sarabia followed up his winner against Switzerland with another goal three minutes after being introduced for Asensio, the attacking midfielder nudging home from Ferran Torres' low cross to wrap up maximum points.

 

What does it mean? Victory moves Spain to group summit

After a sluggish start to their Nations League campaign, Spain are well and truly up and running now.

A second consecutive win moved them onto eight points, one ahead of Portugal. The Czech Republic, meanwhile, remain in third with four points from their opening four games.

Asensio shines

Asensio's pass for Soler's goal means no player has provided more assists for Spain under Luis Enrique's leadership (seven, level with Jordi Alba). He was Spain's biggest threat here, playing more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch.

Morata goes missing

Alvaro Morata endured a game to forget up front for the hosts. The 29-year-old failed to have a single shot or play a key pass before he was hauled off for Torres in the 59th minute.

What's next?

Both sides complete their Group A2 campaigns in September. Spain are at home to Switzerland before visiting Portugal, while the Czech Republic host Portugal and then travel to Switzerland.

Spain made it back-to-back wins to go top of Nations League Group A2 as goals from Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia sealed a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Luis Enrique's side edged past Switzerland on Thursday after opening their campaign with two draws, and they racked up another win at La Rosaleda in Malaga. 

Valencia midfielder Soler scored the opening goal shortly after the midway point in the first half – his third strike at international level.

And substitute Sarabia made sure of all three points in the 75th minute as La Roja usurped Portugal, who lost 1-0 in Switzerland, at the top of the group. 

Unai Simon denied Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta inside the opening 20 minutes as the visitors started brightly.

Yet Spain went ahead with their first attempt on goal in the 24th minute, Soler drilling past Ales Mandous from eight yards after running onto Marco Asensio's pull-back.

Soler then clipped wide soon after as Spain fell short of doubling their advantage before the interval.

Simon pushed away a long-range drive from Alex Kral midway through a tepid second half as both sides struggled to build any momentum. 

That was until Sarabia followed up his winner against Switzerland with another goal three minutes after being introduced for Asensio, the attacking midfielder nudging home from Ferran Torres' low cross to wrap up maximum points.

Jordi Alba implored Barcelona to come together and be "more united than ever" as the LaLiga giants battle financial difficulties.

Xavi and Blaugrana president Joan Laporta are looking to strengthen in the transfer window after finishing second in the league, some 13 points behind champions Real Madrid.

Robert Lewandowski has emerged as the main target from Bayern Munich, but doubts persist as to whether Barca can afford the Poland talisman, who has made his desire to move to Camp Nou clear.

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas suggested Barca must sell their prized assets, such as Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United, to afford Lewandowski.

Laporta hit back by insisting Tebas was intending to "harm" Barca's interests, but Blaugrana economic vice-president Eduard Romeu acknowledged sales were needed to help ease the club's worries.

Alba, speaking before Spain's Nations League clash with Czech Republic on Sunday, admitted he would like more signings but understands the situation his side is in.

"It's the situation we're in. It's not always going to be rosy. Barca would like to be in a better economic situation," he told reporters.

"We're going to go out and if we can't sign we'll have to pull from the academy, where there are very good players.

"It's the idea that the club has and I can't say more. I'd like to sign many players, but the situation is this. We have to be more united than ever, say it all behind closed doors and that's it."

Alba, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were named as the joint captains of Barca when Lionel Messi left amid financial struggles at the start of the 2021-22 season.

On Friday, Roberto became the fourth of the captains to agree a new contract with Barca, with the other three all reportedly taking a significant drop in wages to ease the financial burden.

While Alba was delighted to see Roberto extend his stay with Xavi's team, the left-back assured the captains are committed to the project.

"There should be no doubt of our commitment to the club. I can't control what is said in the press or outside our reach, nor do I want to," Alba added. 

"The needs of the club are what they are and we will be here to help. The four captains will help and I'm sure some more. We have always been committed to the club and we will continue to be.

"It's been a difficult year at club level but I'm convinced that next year will be much better."

Luis Enrique cited the struggles of France in the Nations League as debates continue as to the strength of Spain's World Cup credentials.

Spain play their final Nations League fixture of this window on Sunday, at home to Czech Republic, having picked up just five points from three games.

A pair of draws with Portugal and Czech Republic preceded a narrow 1-0 victory over strugglers Switzerland.

Luis Enrique defended his team selection and knowledge of football after the latter win, and the Spain coach again went on the front foot when asked about what La Roja's Nations League term meant for Qatar 2022.

"It's not about what I understand or don't understand. It's about looking at things with perspective. Nobody is interested in the other results of Group A," he told reporters. 

"If someone expects us to win every game then they do not know what modern football is.

"Look at the struggles of France, champion of the world and Nations League – we are not different. But we are a great team that can beat any rival, that's for sure."

As for who is the favourite for the World Cup, Luis Enrique finds it hard to look past two South American giants.

"I see Argentina above the rest and Brazil too, well above the rest," he added.

Alvaro Morata also came in for special praise from Luis Enrique, who believes the striker is the best defensive forward on the continent.

"All wingers can play as a nine. The strikers that I have brought not all of them can play as a winger," he continued.

"Morata can. I am not going to compare players but on a defensive level, no one beats Morata in Europe. He has an intelligence when it comes to pressing and physical conditions beyond any doubt.

"Then on top of that with the ball he has been very good, he has given us superiority. We want those who participate to know that they have an offensive side and another clear defensive one.

"With us if they don't do the defensive work, we can't be compact."

Spain boss Luis Enrique was in a prickly mood as he defended his team's performance after a 1-0 win over Switzerland in the Nations League on Thursday.

Pablo Sarabia scored the lone goal of the match in the 13th minute, getting on the end of Marcos Llorente's driven pass across the penalty area for a simple tap-in after a quick regain of possession.

That Sarabia's goal came in that scenario spoke to the nature of Spain's possession over the 90 minutes, with Switzerland firing just as many shots with 34 per cent of the ball in comparison to La Roja's 66 per cent.

When asked on Diego Llorente's second start in three games, after making only three appearances since 2020 coming into this international window, Luis Enrique went on the front foot both on selection and approach.

"I know a lot about football and he [Llorente] comes because he is among the best," 'Lucho' said. "He has played continuously. Both him and Pau [Torres]. They found [Sergio] Busquets many times, which is important.

"Marco Asensio has given us things. Morata has been spectacular and with either as our number nine, they have put us favourable scenarios.

"Yes, when they pressure us, they take us to one side of the pitch and we don't have solutions. When you do it very well you can hit a ball up to the forward, and we alter their pressure.

"We are good there too, but it is not our identity. Our identity is to play with the ball. In these games, I insist. You have to have personality to play."

 

Much like in the Euro 2020 quarter-final, Switzerland were able to create specific problems in transition, while remaining compact in defensive phases to largely deny Spain sustainable avenues to goal.

It has been a running theme for Luis Enrique's side in this start to the Nations League, where high volumes of possession did not translate to dominance in shot volume and quality in draws against Portugal and the Czech Republic.

The 52-year-old Spain boss pointed to Switzerland's quality as a team and their record at home – where they were previously unbeaten in a competitive game since 2014 – to validate his own team's performance.

"Switzerland are in the World Cup and will give us problems," Enrique said. "For me the mistake is not having the ball in the opposite end of the field. We defend with the ball.

"The result conditions everything. This is how football works. This team had 23 matches without losing an official match at home. Winning away is very difficult. It has cost, how could it be otherwise.

"The game is conditioned by the result. I'm happy for the spirit of the players and their attitude. It is a positive match that gives us the possibility to still depend on ourselves.

"Switzerland have been undefeated for eight years, 23 official games without losing at home and we had the opportunity to beat them."

Fernando Santos acknowledged there is still plenty of work for Portugal to do to finish above Spain in their Nations League group but is content with the fact his side are sitting pretty atop the pool.

Portugal, who won the inaugural tournament in 2019, moved two points clear at the top of Group A2 with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Lisbon on Thursday.

Spain leapfrogged the Czech Republic into second place courtesy of a 1-0 victory over bottom-placed and pointless Switzerland, coming on the back of successive draws.

The two heavyweights drew 1-1 last week and are due to meet again in the final round of fixtures, but Portugal must first travel to Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

And with only half of the campaign played, Santos is not taking anything for granted at this stage.

"We are first, which is always good," he told Portuguese television station RTP3. "But the other teams in our group also want to win. There are still three games to go.

"Spain also won today and we are now two points ahead. Naturally the group is still open. It will also be resolved in the final games in September, not now."

Portugal were good value for their victory at Estadio Jose Alvalade, where first-half goals from Joao Cancelo and Goncalo Guedes proved enough.

The Selecao had five shots on target to the visitors' one and ended with an expected goals (xG) value of 1.34 to 0.71.

 

While the margin of victory could have been even greater, Guedes was pleased with Portugal's ninth win in their past 11 matches since exiting Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage.

"We played a great game, especially in the first half," he said. "We tried to take advantage of the spaces and circulate the ball, which we managed to do.

"In the second half we tired more, but they're a good team and tried to cancel us out. We wanted more goals but couldn't find them.

"This was still an important victory and a great game on our part. We want to finish first and advance as far as possible in the competition, which we can do with victories."

Bernardo Silva set up both of Portugal's goals and now has three assists this Nations League campaign, which is more than any other player.

He created four big chances in total, while only Cancelo (three) completed more dribbles than Silva's two, despite being taken off 22 minutes from time.

Explaining that substitution, and his selection plans against Switzerland on Sunday, Santos told Sport TV: "Players start to feel tired – that's natural.

"He was very influential for us again today. But he used up his batteries early, and when that happens he could no fulfil his other roles.

"As for the team against Switzerland, you'll have to see."

Spain earned their first victory of the Nations League campaign in Switzerland on Thursday, winning 1-0 courtesy of an early Pablo Sarabia goal.

Finalists in the previous edition, Spain were frustrated in a draw with Portugal and then snatched a point against the Czech Republic before heading to Stade de Geneve.

Luis Enrique's side were not entirely convincing but got their win at the third time of asking, with Switzerland unable to respond to Sarabia's 13th-minute strike.

Bigger aims are on the horizon for La Roja, yet they remain firmly in contention for another Nations League run as a result.

Early Spanish pressure told when Marcos Llorente got in behind and squared for a simple Sarabia finish, with the scorer given the benefit of the doubt following a marginal offside call and lengthy VAR review.

Switzerland's only first-half attempts were miscued headers from Breel Embolo and Eray Comert, who each might have done better, although Sarabia also passed up an opportunity for his second when he blazed over.

Chances were even more sparse into the second half, with Switzerland gaining a foothold without really threatening.

Llorente whipped a left-footed shot wide, but Sarabia had continued to be the game's most dangerous player and his withdrawal just past the hour mark teed up a low-key finale.

What does it mean? Another successful Swiss trip

The Nations League ensures Spain are regularly playing high-level opponents, but there may have been some concern if the national team went three competitive matches without a victory in a World Cup year.

A trip to Switzerland was the ideal tonic then, for Spain are now unbeaten in all of their 11 matches in the country – their best such record anywhere.

Pablo predictably pivotal

Escaping the Paris Saint-Germain bench, Sarabia enjoyed an outstanding season at Sporting CP and has also become a key figure at international level. He has scored three goals and assisted another in his past four appearances, with his nine goal involvements in the past 12 months leading all Spain players.

Llorente's involvement in the goal was perhaps a little less expected. A superb player he may be, but this was the Atletico Madrid man's second assist outside of Spain for club or country across his entire career.

Gavi given rough treatment

Barcelona teenager Gavi catches the eye every time he plays, and this match was no different in that sense, with one outrageous sequence seeing the midfield execute a 'sombrero' over Xherdan Shaqiri and then dance past Granit Xhaka.

But that piece of skill, like other rare moments of Spanish brilliance, was followed by a foul. Switzerland conceded 21 of them, including seven to poor Alvaro Morata.

What's next?

Spain get another shot at the Czech Republic, this time at home on Sunday, when Switzerland host Portugal.

Luis Enrique acknowledged Spain have "many things to improve" on after La Roja were fortunate to draw against the Czech Republic.

Gavi, aged 17 years and 304 days, became the youngest ever player to score for Spain as he curled in to cancel out Jakub Pesek's fourth-minute opener in Prague.

The Barcelona midfielder's strike also meant Spain have scored in 16 straight games in all competitions, only twice achieving such longer streaks in history.

Jan Kutcha then again edged Czech Republic ahead in the Nations League encounter as he chipped over the onrushing Unai Simon in the second half.

But there was to be late drama as Inigo Martinez's 90th-minute header snatched a point for Spain, who sit two points behind Group A2 joint-leaders Czech Republic and Portugal after two games.

With just one team progressing to the Nations League finals, Luis Enrique was glad to pick up a point but urged his side to improve.

Asked whether the stalemate would keep the critics quiet, the Spain coach told reporters: "Noise is the most beautiful thing in the world of football. I know what I play, I know where I'm going. 

"There are many things to improve. But the best thing about drawing is that the rival does not add three points.

"The important thing is that the rival does not escape us."

Luis Enrique was also quick to heap praise on teenage star Gavi after yet another fine performance in midfield.

"I know Gavi very well, I've been watching videos for five years of him. If there was any player who we wanted in that position in the first half, it was him," he added. 

"Either he shoots or he gets into the area, and that conviction is unstoppable."

Inigo Martinez scored a late equaliser as Spain salvaged a 2-2 draw in the Nations League with the Czech Republic.

Luis Enrique vowed to rotate after Spain's opening Group A2 stalemate with Portugal and made eight changes in Prague, where Jakub Pesek struck after just four minutes.

Kuchta nudged Jaroslav Silhavy's side ahead again in the second half after Gavi's first-half equaliser, before Martinez popped up in the 90th minute to snatch a point.

The stalemate left Spain three points Group A2 joint-leaders Czech Republic and Portugal, who eased past Switzerland on Sunday.

Fernando Santos insists he had no problem in leaving Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench as Portugal played out an "interesting result" in their Nations League opener with Spain.

Alvaro Morata fired Spain into a 25th-minute lead with his 26th strike in all competitions for his country, becoming the joint-seventh highest scorer in La Roja's history alongside Emilio Butragueno.

Ronaldo was introduced after the hour mark but it was fellow substitute Ricardo Horta who made the difference.

Horta popped up at the back post with eight minutes remaining to coolly convert Joao Cancelo's low, whipped cross from the right flank, snatching a 1-1 draw for Portugal in Seville.

Santos, speaking after the game, was quick to defend his decision to name Ronaldo among the substitutes, while he hailed the performance of his side on the road.

"There is no management at all. Management will be done in every game. Here too. It seemed to me that this was the best solution for the start of the game," Santos told Sport TV.

"A different team [Portugal], in terms of work and positioning of field, with different things. This seemed to be a good solution and I had Cristiano whenever I needed to get him on the field.

"I already knew that. It's a normal structure."

He added to RTP3: "Thank God. I'm very happy, despite being sad about the result, I'm very happy because a Portugal draw with Spain is just an interesting result.

"Of course, it's not a good result for us, but still good for us, for the working of this group, which leads people to believe that we can do more."

Portugal host Switzerland on Sunday in their next Group A2 game, while Spain visit Czech Republic on the same day.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique was quick to praise the team spirit and support in Seville as he suggested he will rotate following the 1-1 Nations League draw with Portugal.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring after 25 minutes on Thursday, becoming La Roja's joint-seventh highest scorer in history alongside Emilio Butragueno with 26 goals.

Spain dominated for large parts of the proceedings in their Group A2 opener, but substitute Ricardo Horta scored with eight minutes remaining to ensure the spoils were shared.

Czech Republic are the next opponents for Luis Enrique's side on Sunday and the Spain boss vowed to rotate to evaluate all members of his squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

"I have suffered more than usual," he told reporters after the game. "I was seeing that it was difficult to keep up with the rhythm of the 90 minutes and that the victory could escape us.

"But I think the team has been good. The players have coped with the heat and fatigue of the season with great determination. We are going to use all the players [in the upcoming games].

"The atmosphere, the public was superb and the attitude of my players as well. I like the team spirit. Now it's time to recover and we'll see what we can improve on.

"The idea of ​​competing throughout the game penalised us. It's difficult to keep up with the pressure for 90 minutes, but in general I'm satisfied.

"In fact, overall, I'm more than satisfied and I'm sure when I see it, I'll be even happier."

Luis Enrique was quick to hail the influence of Morata, while he defended his decision to leave Ansu Fati as an unused substitute.

"We could have won and we could have lost," he continued. "He is good in this team and everywhere, he is a player who has a goal and although he is not a player with stratospheric figures, everything he gives us is very good.

"Ansu is coming to help us in the long term, I like what I see in training but he still doesn't have the rhythm to help us in everything he wants, and it's normal.

"But I'm the coach and you have to trust me there."

Ricardo Horta scored a late equaliser as Portugal and Spain opened their Nations League campaigns with a 1-1 draw on Thursday.

Spain were defeated in the final by France in last year's competition, but entered the 2022 edition after four straight wins.

Morata fired Spain into a first-half lead as he became the joint-seventh highest scorer in La Roja's history with his 26th strike in all competitions.

Portugal offered little in response until Horta popped up with eight minutes remaining to steal a draw in the Group A2 opener.

Gavi whipped narrowly wide in the opening exchanges, while Rafael Leao – making his first start for Portugal – blasted over at the other end.

Morata opened the scoring after 23 minutes when Gavi surged forward to find Pablo Sarabia, who unselfishly squared for the forward to tap in.

Carlos Soler almost doubled Spain's lead shortly after but was denied by Diogo Costa before blazing the rebound over, while Andre Silva drilled just wide of Unai Simon's right post.

Fernando Santos responded by sending on Ruben Neves at half-time but the second-half proceedings continued in similar vein, with Spain in control.

Leao spurned a presentable opportunity by firing into the onrushing Simons' legs, before Morata prodded wastefully wide in an attempt to chip Costa.

Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced just after the hour, but it was another substitute, Horta, who equalised as he converted Joao Cancelo's whipped cross, before Jordi Alba headed agonisingly wide with the goal gaping in the closing stages.

Spain will be without Thiago Alcantara for their upcoming Nations League games.

The midfielder was an injury concern for Liverpool ahead of the Champions League final on Saturday, but he was declared fit to start and played 77 minutes of the 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid before being replaced by Roberto Firmino.

However, the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona midfielder will be unable to play for his national team in this month's matches against Portugal, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

That is due to what a muscular injury to the back of his right leg.

Thiago will remain with the Spain camp until after Thursday's clash with Portugal in Seville.

Spain coach Luis Enrique will not be calling up a replacement for Thiago, who last started for his country in June 2021. He later made four appearances at the delayed Euro 2020 finals, all from the bench.

A Gerard Deulofeu hat-trick powered Catalonia to a 6-0 drubbing of the Reggae Boyz in Spain on Wednesday.

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