Spain begin the defence of their European Championships title with a tricky match against the Czech Republic. In what many believe to be the Group of Death (aptly named Group D), with Croatia and Turkey being the other two teams, Spain cannot afford a slow start – all guns blazing, let's go at full tilt should be their mantra – as they play their Euro 2016 opener in Toulouse on Monday.
The champions overcame their disappointing effort in the 2014 World Cup with an assured qualification campaign. While many believe Spain's era of European dominance – they have won the last two editions of the European Championships – is at an end, the players and coach Vicente Del Bosque will want to show they are still the team to beat in this tournament.
To do that, Del Bosque will need to get his starting XI right. Those days of the "false 9" seem to have gone, with Spain set to go with a conventional No.9 for this Euro 2016, be that with Alvaro Morata up front or Aritz Aduriz, who is coming off a brilliant club season with Athletic Bilbao.
Despite all the naysayers, Spain still have a really strong squad, with Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and David Silva likely to make up the midfield, while Nolito, so exciting to watch when on his game, will provide support to Morata up front.
The defence will be Juanfran, who should be preferred over Hector Bellerin, and Jordi Alba flanking Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, while the big decision for Del Bosque to make is whether Iker Casillas will be in the major tournament starting XI again over David De Gea. De Gea has grown from strength to strength over the past couple of seasons and not many will say that Casillas is a better keeper, at the moment.
However, Del Bosque, sometimes to a fault, is quite faithful to his senior players, and with De Gea finding himself embroiled in a sex scandal, the experienced Casillas might just keep his place, even if, De Gea, without a shadow of a doubt, is the better goalkeeper.
The Czech Republic will be telling themselves to just worry about their own team and performance rather than thinking too much about the opposition. Coach Pavel Vrba will be without the suspended Marek Suchy for this match, while he will look to the creative skills of Tomas Rosicky to help hit Spain. The Czechs have a really strong goalkeeper in Petr Cech – no doubts about who will start in this team in that position – while their defence will need to be tuned in from minute one to minute 90 to stand any chance of stopping Spain from scoring.
As Georgia showed in a shock 1-0 win just prior to the start of Euro 2016, if you stay compact at the back and frustrate the Spain attackers, a positive result is definitely possible.
Confirmed starting XI: Spain: De Gea; Juanfran, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Busquets; Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta; Nolito; Morata.
Czech Republic: Cech; Kaderabek, Sivok, Hubnik, Limbersky; Gebre Selassie, Darida; Plasil, Krejci; Rosicky; Necid.