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Euro 2024: Spain aims to keep its winning run going and end Albania's faint chances

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Spain is already qualified for the Euro 2024 round of 16 as Group B winner and is the only team, apart from France, yet to concede a goal. Spain is likely to rest players. If it's to qualify, Albania is likely to need a win that would rank among all-time great upsets. The kickoff in Duesseldorf — at the same time as group rivals Croatia and Italy meet in Leipzig — is 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT). Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— Spain's slick, confident performance in its 1-0 win over defending champion Italy means that the team — European champion in 1964, 2008 and 2012 — is once again being hailed as a favorite for the title. Germany and Portugal were the only other teams to win their opening two games.

— The one possible negative from Spain's win over Italy was that it took an own goal from Italian defender Riccardo Calafiori. No Spain player has scored since Dani Carvajal just before half time in the opening 3-0 win over Croatia.

— Albania scored the opening goal in both of its games — breaking a record with one after just 23 seconds — but ended up with just one point after a 2-1 loss to Italy and a dramatic 2-2 draw with Croatia.

— It's theoretically possible that a draw might be enough to qualify Albania for the round of 16 as one of the third-place teams with the best record but it would need several other results to go Albania's way. Albania coach Sylvinho signaled he would aim for the win if possible.

Team news

— The big question is how much Spain coach Luis de la Fuente rotates his squad to rest players with the upcoming knockout stages in mind. He said Sunday he would pick “the players that we feel are apt for this game.” Even a second- or third-choice Spain team could win Euro 2024, Albania coach Sylvinho said.

­— Spain midfielder Rodri is suspended for the game against Albania after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament against Italy. He broke a rule that only captains can speak with referees at Euro 2024.

— De la Fuente has decisions to make on right back Carvajal or central defender Robin le Normand, who have already been booked once. Another yellow card would leave them suspended for the round of 16. Defender Nacho and winger Ayoze Pérez are reportedly injury doubts.

— Albania forward Mirlind Daku is out with a two-game ban from UEFA after chanting nationalist slogans into a megaphone following the Croatia game.

By the numbers

— By completing the group stage without conceding a goal, Spain can emulate a feat only two teams managed at Euro 2020. They were Italy and England, who went on to meet in the final where Italy won on penalties.

— Spain won all eight of the games it's ever played against Albania but needed a 90th-minute goal from Dani Olmo to win their most recent encounter 2-1 in a 2022 friendly.

What they’re saying

— “The last thing that we want is injuries. We’re just focused on sending out the best players for our game plan in tomorrow’s game. You might say that this one is rested or this one is rested, but this is a competition with seven games potentially.” — Spain coach Luis de la Fuente.

— "We have proved we know what we're doing, we have proved we can play against the strongest teams, teams that put pressure on us. So if you ask me if I think the team is ready to win this competition, my answer is yes.” — Spain defender Aymeric Laporte.

— “Spain welcomed me, my family and I have a life there. My children were born there and I played for Barcelona and Celta Vigo for a long time ... To be playing against Spain is fantastic. They’re a brilliant team with a superb coach and it’s a game I won’t forget.” -- Albania coach Sylvinho.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

James Ellingworth, The Associated Press