Spain vs. Finland: Complete Preview for World Cup Qualifier
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Domestic football is replaced by the international sort over the coming few days, with Spain playing two World Cup qualifiers.
Next week they meet France, but first up it is Finland on Friday night.
The reigning European and World Champions hold home advantage too, and the match takes place at Sporting Gijon's El Molinon stadium.
Heading into the match, La Roja occupy top spot in Group I, while Finland sit in last place.
Iker Casillas is injured and not in the squad, so it is thought that Victor Valdes will start ahead of David De Gea and Pepe Reina.
There are no major concerns in defense. If Sergio Ramos starts, as is expected, then he will overtake Germany's Lukas Podolski in becoming the youngest player to reach 100 caps for their country.
If Sergio Ramos plays v Finland 2 wks tomorrow, he'll become the YOUNGEST European player to win 100 caps beating Lukas Podolski by 21 days.— Gary Linton (@AlbaEspana) March 7, 2013
Although Xavi Hernandez is in the squad, he won't play against Finland. Barcelona were reluctant to see him join up with La Roja following a recent injury, but he may play a part against France.
Two genuine strikers are in the 23-man squad. The in-form David Villa and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo are those men, but Vicente del Bosque may prefer to go with a false nine again.
Finland are captained by Ajax defender Niklas Moisander and shouldn't really trouble Spain.
One of their more experienced players, Rubin Kazan's Alexei Eremenko, was sent off last time out, so he will miss the match through suspension.
Teemu Tainio is a notable name having previously had spells in France, England and the United States.
Another notable name is Mikael Forssell, back playing in Finland now but previously with Chelsea and a host of other English and German sides.
Spain's last defeat was 1-0 against England in a friendly back in November 2011.
They haven't lost competitively since Switzerland surprised them in the opening fixture of the World Cup in 2010.
So far in their qualifying group they have won twice and were held to a draw against France, 1-1.
Finland have struggled to make an impact in qualifiers in recent years.
They failed to make Euro 2012, finishing third-bottom in their group above only Moldova and San Marino.
So far in Group I, they narrowly lost to France and drew 1-1 with Georgia—both matches were at home.
This is not one of European football's more regular meetings.
They last met in 2007, playing out a dull 0-0 draw in Helsinki.
Before that, though, they hadn't played each other since 1994. They met twice that year, and La Roja won on both occasions.
Spain: Victor Valdes; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta; Pedro Rodriguez, David Villa, David Silva
Finland: Niki Maenpaa; Niklas Moisander, Jukka Raitala, Kari Arkivuo, Joona Toivio; Perparim Hetemaj, Teemu Taino, Tim Sparv, Alexander Ring; Teemu Pukki, Mikael Forssell
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