EURO 2012 PREVIEW: SPAIN

Posted on: Sun 03 Jun 2012

With Euro 2012 starting later this week, we take an in-depth look at those sides featuring Chelea players and assess their chances, starting with the holders, Spain.

The current holders and world champions go into the tournament as strong favourites, and with good reason, but a 1-0 defeat to England at Wembley back in November proved they are far from flawless.

However, after topping their qualification group, winning all eight matches and scoring 26 goals on the way, it's certainly going to take something special in order to stop the Spanish juggernaut from winning their third consecutive tournament, as well as their second European Championships.

With danger men throughout the squad, the fact both Juan Mata and Fernando Torres are not guaranteed starters says everything about Spain's strength-in-depth. Expect the Barcelona duo Andres Iniesta and Xavi to pull the strings in midfield, while in attack, with David Villa missing through injury, the Athletic Bilbao hitman Fernando Llorente will be Torres's biggest rival for a starting spot.

The toughest of opening fixtures, against a notoriously well-organised Italy, could go a long way to deciding how the favourites fare, while the Republic of Ireland and Croatia are always difficult to break down.

Spain lost their first match at the 2010 World Cup and recovered to go on and win the tournament, but there is far less margin for error in the Euros and, holders or not, they certainly won't have it all their own way.

However, Torres netted his first international goal in almost a year in last week's friendly win against South Korea, and if the Blues frontman can maintain the type of form he showed towards the end of the season, they will feel as if they can beat anybody.

With arguably the strongest squad in the competition, even injuries to key players shouldn't have a significant impact, and anything less than a semi-final place will be seen as a major disappointment.

Sunday 10 June: Spain v Italy, kick-off 5pm
Thursday 14 June: Spain v Republic of Ireland, kick-off 7.45pm
Monday 18 June: Croatia v Spain, kick-off 5pm