Euro 2024 qualifier tips: Spain vs Norway - Erling Haaland's absence key to Spanish success
After a disappointing World Cup that saw defeat to Japan in the group stage followed by a last-16 penalty shoot-out exit at the hands of Morocco, Spain parted ways with Luis Enrique and replaced him with Luis de la Fuente.
His first game in charge comes against Norway at La Rosaleda in Malaga on Saturday and the new coach might be quietly relieved that his defence won't have to face injured Norwegian superstar Erling Haaland, who has been in incredible form this season, scoring 42 goals in 37 games for Manchester City. These two teams are the favourites to qualify from a group that also includes Cyprus, Georgia and Greece. Norway failed to qualify for last year's World Cup after finishing third in their qualifying group behind Netherlands and Turkey, while in their most recent Nations League campaign they finished second behind Serbia. Even without Haaland, Norway still boast plenty of talent in their team with players like Arsenal's captain Martin Odegaard, Alexander Sorloth (Real Sociedad), Morten Thorsby (Union Berlin), Kristoffer Ajer (Brentford) and Fredrik Aursnes (Benfica), among others. Suggested bet: Spain to win to nil
Luis de la Fuente has reshuffled the Spanish pack since the World Cup, excluding no less than 16 players who went to Qatar, including six of the eight Barcelona players that made the trip to Qatar.
And while the former head coach did not select any Real Madrid players for the World Cup, the new coach was quick to call up Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez and Dani Ceballos.
Spain and Norway met each other quite recently, in the 2020 European Championship qualifiers, when their game in Oslo ended as a 1-1 draw, before Spain squeezed out a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture.
With their attacking potency reduced, Norway might look more towards defensive resilience in this opening qualifier, which should lead to Spanish domination in terms of both possession and territory. With or without Haaland Norway are no pushovers these days, but even so Spain will still kick off as heavy favourites on their own turf, and a low-scoring home win without conceding looks likely as a decent value bet. Suggested bet: Spain to win to nil
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