England caretaker manager Gareth Southgate faces a major task in maintaining his unbeaten start at the Three Lions helm on Tuesday as 2010 world champions Spain make their way to Wembley Stadium.
After the trials and tribulations of his side's recent 2018 World Cup qualification schedule, a midweek friendly against one of Europe's powerhouses doesn't offer Southgate much respite in the interim role.
Despite winning two games and drawing one in World Cup qualification, a friendly meeting with La Furia Roja could be the interim boss' greatest test in whether he can secure the position permanently.
Meanwhile, Spain manager Julen Lopetegui is also unbeaten since taking over the national team in July, and two of Europe's less experienced international bosses face a challenge in proving their credentials with a friendly win.
Read on for all the vital viewing information ahead of Tuesday's fixture, complete with a discussion of the major headlines leading into the clash.
Date: Tuesday, November 15
Time: 8 p.m. GMT / 3 p.m. ET
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
TV Info: ITV (UK), Fox Sports 1 (U.S.)
|England vs. Spain Form Guide|
|W England 3-0 Scotland||W Spain 4-0 Macedonia|
|D Slovenia 0-0 England||W Albania 0-2 Spain|
|W England 2-0 Malta||D Italy 1-1 Spain|
|W Slovakia 0-1 England||W Spain 8-0 Lichtenstein|
|L England 1-2 Iceland||W Belgium 0-2 Spain|
Southgate Under Inspection
It's strange that Southgate should go three games unbeaten in World Cup qualification as England's caretaker boss, only for a friendly clash against Spain to become perhaps his greatest test in getting the job on a permanent basis.
Qualifying wins over Scotland and Malta have proved his credentials somewhat, while three clean sheets also bodes well, but the Guardian's Daniel Taylor insisted Southgate's meeting with Spain will be a real proving ground:
Perhaps it is just a reflection on England’s position after the ordeal of Euro 2016 and the short, undistinguished [Sam] Allardyce era, but I would actually place more stock in how Southgate’s team take care of the ball against Spain on Tuesday rather than a slightly deceptive feelgood victory that was not, in truth, as comprehensive as the result suggests.
Friday's victory over Scotland wasn't the one-sided result a 3-0 scoreline might suggest, while the 0-0 stalemate against Slovenia in October welcomed more criticism than praise by and large.
It looks likely Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge will start against the Spanish, too, after Southgate told the Three Lions' official Twitter account Harry Kane won't be available for the home fixture:
The Tottenham Hotspur ace would probably be his country's preferred option in attack if fit, and England are sure to miss the influence he would have on Spain's back line if healthy and ready to play.
Southgate has spent almost two months in charge of England in an interim capacity, and although the Football Association look likely to reward the former Middlesbrough man with the full-time role, a win against Spain would substantially boost support in his name.
Lopetegui's New-Look Spain
Just as Southgate is a new face at the head of England's table, Lopetegui's career as Spain boss is also in its infancy and is gliding along in a smooth manner following his July appointment.
Of the five matches he's led the national team, Lopetegui's Spain have won four and drawn one, the most recent of which was Saturday's 4-0 win over Macedonia, after which the boss took to Twitter to illustrate his delight:
Lopetegui has made it to the position in Spain's international setup after managing the country's youth from under-19 to under-21 level, coming to the senior team after ending his two-year stay at FC Porto.
The 50-year-old's managerial career could have panned out far differently, however, and after telling the Guardian's Sid Lowe of how close he came to joining Wolverhampton Wanderers this summer, Lopetegui detailed his love of English football:
I’m passionate about English football; it’s lived in a special way, unique. There’s a culture of believing in mid- and long-term projects. Admittedly, that’s changing: the division with the most [managerial] changes in the world last season was the Championship. But there’s respect, a willingness to build properly, patience.
Then there’s the fans’ passion. England invented football and the culture’s special. The challenge of bringing something new to English football was attractive; the chance to applying some of our culture, things I thought could help.
Needless to say, Lopetegui won't be allowing any of that passion for the culture of his opponents on Tuesday translate into empathy, lest he put his unbeaten record as Spain manager at risk, albeit only a friendly encounter.
Spain have scored 17 goals and conceded one in the five games in which Lopetegui has been manager—with eight different goalscorers in that time—and an already-lethal team are looking that much more dangerous under the new management.