Luis Enrique pledged there will be no complacency from his Spain side as La Roja prepare to take on Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

While Spain needed extra-time to see off a resurgent Croatia 5-3 in the last 16, Switzerland stunned world champions France 5-4 on penalties after a dramatic 3-3 draw in Bucharest.

Both of those ties took place on Monday, albeit Switzerland's game edged into Tuesday local time, and the teams now face a quick turnaround for Friday's contest in Saint Petersburg.

This is the first meeting between Switzerland and Spain at the European Championship.

Their three previous meetings in a major tournament came in the 1966, 1994 and 2010 World Cups, with La Roja winning the first two and Switzerland triumphing last time out – albeit Spain went on to win the trophy despite that group-stage defeat.

However, that defeat in South Africa is Spain's only loss to Switzerland in 22 meetings in all competitions.

The teams met in October and November last year, in the Nations League group stage, with Spain winning 1-0 at home before drawing 1-1 on the road, and Luis Enrique is under no illusions as to the scale of test his team will have to pass if they are to face either Belgium or Italy in the last four.

"The reality is Switzerland have got through and nothing else matters," Spain's head coach told a news conference.

"The good thing for us is that both teams know each other very well. We competed recently in the Nations League.

"They're going to be a very tough team to face and I think for the spectator there might not be some big names, but they're a great group of players.

"They're a match for us in terms of the way they press, the way they attack, so it's going to be very difficult for us."

Spain are the first team in European Championship history to score five or more goals in consecutive games, having defeated Slovakia 5-0 in their final group match before edging Croatia in a thriller.

They had not scored more than four goals in any of their first 42 matches in the competition, though Switzerland have netted three times in each of their last two games, having never scored more than twice in any of their first 15 matches at the Euros.

"We need to be hungry again, greedy, to make it to the next round," Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic, who will be shorn of the suspended Granit Xhaka, told reporters.

"From this point on I can't say I'm satisfied and happy that we made it so far because, for me, the next step is always the most important.

"We want to succeed, make it to the next round. We know that we have to play against one of the strongest teams, Spain, one of the favourites, but we will try to take our chance and make it to the next round."

Luis Enrique's free-scoring Spain will look to avoid the same fate as France when they take on European Championship quarter-final debutants Switzerland.

Switzerland pulled off one of the tournament's all-time greatest shocks by eliminating competition favourites France on penalties in the last 16 after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

La Roja were also involved in a game that saw six goals inside an eventful 90 minutes, before going on to beat Croatia 5-3 in extra time in another Euros classic.

In doing so, Spain became the first side in European Championship history to score five or more goals in successive games, having seen off Slovakia 5-0 in their final group match.

Ahead of Friday's showdown with Switzerland, Luis Enrique has vowed to stick to an attacking style of play.

"I'm ready for games like the one against Croatia if we have another – but I'm not sure if my family or the fans feel the same," he said.

"We won't play long ball, defensive football even if playing the way we do brings wild matches. We only defend by trying to own the ball and play."

Switzerland have reached the last eight of the World Cup on three occasions, but this is the furthest they have ever made it at a European Championship.

They have never previously made it to the semi-finals of a tournament but, buoyed by their famous triumph against France, Vladimir Petkovic's players have a chance to change that.

"The game against France was almost too emotional. All my players gave 120 per cent," said Petkovic, who will be without suspended skipper Granit Xhaka.

"It was probably one of my team's best games ever. We will now need a similar performance against Spain in the quarter-finals."

Spain have lost just one of their 22 meetings with Switzerland in all competitions (W16 D5), with that solitary defeat coming in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

 


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Switzerland - Haris Seferovic

Benfica striker Seferovic scored just one goal in his first 13 major tournament appearances for Switzerland, but he has now netted three in his last two appearances at Euro 2020.

That includes a couple of well-taken goals in the win against France, and he is now out to become the second Swiss player – after Josef Hugi at the 1954 World Cup – to score in three successive appearances in a single tournament.

Spain - Ferran Torres

Manchester City attacker Torres was recalled to Spain's starting line-up for the Croatia match after scoring from the bench in the resounding win against Slovakia.

He made the most of his opportunity with another goal and an assist in the last 16, making it eight goal involvements – seven goals and one assist – in his last nine international appearances.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the first clash between Switzerland and Spain at the Euros. Their three previous meetings in a major tournament came in the 1966, 1994 and 2010 World Cups, with Spain winning the first two and Switzerland triumphing last time out.

- Spain have scored five-plus goals in consecutive European Championship games. They had not scored more than four goals in any of their first 42 matches in the competition.

- Switzerland have scored three times in each of their past two Euros matches, having never scored more than twice in any of their first 15 in the competition. They previously scored three-plus goals in three straight matches in all competitions in October 2017.

- Having scored with just 8.5 per cent of their shots in the group stages (4/47), Switzerland converted 25 per cent of their attempts in the last-16 meeting with France (3/12).

- Spain are averaging 73.4 per cent possession and have a passing accuracy of 89.5 per cent at Euro 2020 so far. Both figures are their highest on record in a single European Championship (since 1980).

Luis Enrique believes any national team in the world would gladly have Alvaro Morata in their line-up after helping Spain reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Spain forward Morata put patchy form in front of goal behind him to fire a brilliant extra-time strike and re-establish La Roja's lead in Copenhagen on Monday, en route to a thrilling 5-3 last-16 win over Croatia.

Before the match, Luis Enrique branded abuse and threats directed towards Morata and his family as "criminal" and urged the police to take action.

After a breathless encounter at Parken Stadium, which Spain led 3-1 with five minutes of normal time remaining, the Spain head coach once again offered unwavering backing to his centre-forward.

"I don't think there's a national team coach anywhere in the world who wouldn't value Morata and what he does for the team" he said, after the 28-year-old completed 84 per cent of his passes in the opposition half and created two chances for team-mates.

"He's dominant aerially, he's strong and he gets us goals. We really need to appreciate having a striker like him."

 

Spain fell behind in the first half when goalkeeper Unai Simon let a 40-yard backpass from Pedri skip past him and into the net.

The Athletic Bilbao keeper made amends early in extra time with a stunning close-range save from Andrej Kramaric when the score was 3-3.

"Unai gave a lesson to kids everywhere," Luis Enrique said.

"Football is made up of errors and his reaction, making great saves, was an example of why we have such confidence in him."

The former Barcelona boss added: "I've lived through really intense matches as a player and manager but this one genuinely had a bit of everything."

After becoming the first team to score five goals in back-to-back games in European Championship history, Spain will face Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Vladimir Petkovic's side emulated Croatia's feat by launching a late comeback to draw 3-3 with France before beating the world champions on penalties as Yann Sommer saved decisively from Kylian Mbappe in the shoot-out.

When Dani Olmo's right-footed cross curled through the fervent Copenhagen evening, it only had one man's name on it.

The name of a striker who has plied his trade at the top of European football for the duration of his career, the name of a player chosen to lead the line for one of the continent's great footballing heavyweights.

But also the name of a 28-year-old man with a wife and a young family, whose struggles at Euro 2020 have provoked unforgivable threats from poisonous throats and wicked fingers.

"I would like people to put themselves in my shoes and think what it's like to get threats towards my family, people saying: 'I hope your children die'," Alvaro Morata told Cadena Cope this week, after scoring once but missing a catalogue of chances during the group stage.

"I've had to leave my phone outside my room. My wife and children have come to the stadium in Seville with Morata on the back of their shirts and people have been shouting at them. 

"It's complicated. I understand people booing me for missing chances but there's a limit."

Olmo, who himself slammed Morata's abusers for "going beyond" had put his team-mate in the spotlight once more. It was a perfect cross at odds with the frenzied, haywire nonsense that had gone before.

But then, that's Spain at major tournaments nowadays. It's complicated.

                       ********************

Since winning Euros 2008 and 2012 either side of the 2010 World Cup, Spain were without a win in major tournament knockout games ahead of Monday's last-16 encounter with Croatia at Parken Stadium.

At the 2014 World Cup, they were dumped out at the group stage, at Euro 2016 they were comprehensively outplayed by Antonio Conte's Italy and the hosts bored them to a penalty shoot-out loss at Russia 2018.

But this time it would be different, right?

In Luis Enrique, they have a high-class coach with a point to prove. They put collective goalscoring demons behind them by shellacking Slovakia 5-0 and began against Croatia with authoritative dominance.

Pedri, the youngest player to start a European Championship knockout game at 18 years and 215 days, had everyone dancing to his tune. A stunning throughball released Koke, who should have scored. Morata, naturally, also should have scored but misjudged a header.

It seemed a matter of time before Spain scored with Pedri heavily involved. The Barcelona youngster pinging a 40-yard backpass beyond a haphazard attempt at control from goalkeeper Unai Simon – giving Croatia the lead before they had enjoyed either a shot or a touch inside the opposition penalty area – was not in anyone's script, however.

                       ********************

Scripts, match reports and strands of hair have long since been ripped apart by the time Morata smoothly controlled Olmo's centre with his right foot.

It was time to make his impression upon a contest of clinical finishing and frazzled brains.

"The situation is so serious that it must be put in the hands of the police because it is a serious crime," Luis Enrique rightly said when addressing the media this week.

"Insulting Morata's relatives is a crime and I hope it is corrected outright."

In the sporting sense, he had seen his team fall victim to an improbable heist and needed the centre-forward he trusts above all others.

Around 50 minutes earlier, Morata could look on with satisfaction and leave the finishing to right-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who powered home Ferran Torres' 57th-minute cross.

The effervescent Pablo Sarabia equalised before half-time and Torres getting in on the act showed Spain have enough firepower to absorb Morata's more erratic moments and enjoy his slick, intelligent link play. He created two openings for team-mates and completed 84 per cent of his passes deep in Croatian territory.

Luka Modric, the old master so outplayed by Pedri, was goaded into penning the sting in the tail as he shuffled towards the Spain six-yard box to set up substitute Mislav Orsic.

Right then, it felt as if Luis Enrique might have erred in taking off Sarabia, Torres and Koke to rest their legs for the quarters, not to mention disrupting Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia's central defensive pairing by throwing on Pau Torres for the latter.

When Mario Pasalic converted Orsic's brilliant delivery from deep to spark unbridled bedlam, we had our answer.

                       ********************

Morata's perfect first touch granted him time in a game where no one seemed to have any, despite an additional 30 minute being bolted on.

Orsic blazed over at the start of extra time with Spain rocking, while Andrej Kramaric drew a magnificent save from Simon when the score was 3-3.

In terms of redemptive moments, that was only the supporting act.

Where he has snatched at changes so often of late, Morata found time to breath and let the ball drop enough for him to drive his left boot brutally through.

It was in from the moment he connected. Olmo's fellow sub Mikel Oyarzabal concluded a 5-3 win, making Spain the first team to score five goals in consecutive European Championship matches.

That's an awful lot to celebrate for some who have mercilessly tormented their hero of the hour and his loved ones. They don't deserve Alvaro Morata, and the endurance and perseverance that mean one of this tournament's greatest ever games belongs to him.

Spain boss Luis Enrique has described the abuse received by Alvaro Morata as a "crime" and says it should be a matter for the police. 

Morata has been the focus of attention since being jeered by his own fans during a pre-Euro 2020 friendly with Portugal after missing several opportunities.

He was then criticised for his displays in Spain's 0-0 draw with Sweden in their Group E opener and 1-1 draw with Poland, a game in which he scored but missed more chances.

The Juventus striker, whose loan from Atletico Madrid was extended for another season last week, then missed a penalty in Wednesday's 5-0 win against Slovakia, which saw Spain progress from their group in second place.

Morata revealed in an interview that he has received vicious messages on social media during the tournament, while his wife and children have also been targeted in public. 

Luis Enrique has repeatedly leapt to the defence of Morata for his performances and is expected to stick with the 28-year-old for the last-16 tie with Croatia on Monday. 

Speaking at a media conference, the Spain boss said: "The situation is so serious that it must be put in the hands of the police because it is a serious crime. 

"Insulting Morata's relatives is a crime and I hope it is corrected outright."

 

Spain will hope to end a run of falling at the first hurdle in the knockouts of a major tournament when they face Croatia.

After winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, La Roja were eliminated at this stage of both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Despite that, Luis Enrique said his side have no doubts about their ability to get past Croatia. 

"I have had the same confidence since the start of the Championship," he added.

"No team has surprised us. I thought we were going to be first in the group, but football is the result. But in terms of morale and dedication, we are at the max.

"We have not been there since 2012, but against Slovakia we had to win and now we have another final. I don't know if we are going to pass, but my team has no doubts. We are going to try to minimise the threat of the rival."

The match will be Croatia and Spain's third major tournament meeting, with both previous such clashes coming in European Championship group stages. Both sides won once each: Spain in 2012 and Croatia in 2016.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique believes critics of his side could have nothing to complain about after their 5-0 rout of Slovakia sealed their spot in the Euro 2020 last 16.

Luis Enrique's Spain had been subject to boos from their fans along with media criticism following 0-0 and 1-1 draws with Sweden and Poland respectively in their opening two Euro 2020 games, both in Seville.

A lot of the attention has centred on forward Alvaro Morata, who missed an early penalty against Slovakia, but Luis Enrique's side turned around those woes with an emphatic display, securing the biggest win of Euro 2020 so far.

The victory also equalled the largest margin of victory in a game at the European Championships, Spain becoming the fifth different side to win by five goals in the tournament (after France and Denmark in 1984, the Netherlands in 2000 and Sweden in 2004).

Aymeric Laporte, Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres all netted along with two own goals as Spain secured second spot behind Sweden in Group E, setting up a last-16 date with Croatia.

"I believe people can have plenty of complaints, but I really don't think there can be any criticisms of today," Luis Enrique told his post-game news conference.

"We will prepare for the last-16 with plenty of confidence and we're desperate for Monday to come around soon."

He added: "It is a relief. Not just for me, but in terms of what it means with our ability to achieve a convincing result with our style."

The former Barcelona boss added that they would "pop a bottle of Cava" to celebrate their progress but wanted more in the knockout stage, with his lofty expectations unchanged.

"We will go step by step. I've spoken about what I believe we can achieve and the expectations we have as a national team and I haven't changed my opinion," Luis Enrique said.

"We have certainly popped that bottle of Cava, therefore we are delighted, we are pleased the fans and players have had a good time.

"Now it's time for us to get another bottle of Cava and see if we can pop that too."

Spain will take on Croatia in Copenhagen on Monday, with the teams last meeting twice in 2018 via the Nations League.

Croatia won 3-2 in Zagreb, while Spain thrashed the 2018 World Cup finalists 6-0 in Elche in those encounters.

"They are a top team with players we know well, we played in the Nations League two years ago as well," Luis Enrique said.

"It will be a tough match but when you get to last 16 you can't expect easy teams."

Luis Enrique accepted criticism ahead of Spain's decisive Group E clash with Slovakia, where another draw may not be enough.

Spain have drawn with Sweden and Poland so far at Euro 2020 and could follow Portugal in 2016 as the second ever team to be held in all three matches in a European Championship group stage.

Portugal went on to win that tournament, but Spain would not even be assured of third place in their pool and a place in the next round if results went against them elsewhere.

Worryingly for Luis Enrique, whose side missed a host of chances in their first two matches, a point apiece appears the most likely result.

Spain have drawn each of their past four major tournament matches – one shy of a record for European sides.

And a point would suit Slovakia, ensuring they advance for the third time in three major tournament appearances, after the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2016.

Spain coach Luis Enrique described himself as "preoccupied with us meriting better results but not getting them".

"We've created enough chances to win both games," he added, yet the under-fire boss recognised he could not complain about scrutiny.

"We coaches fully understand the fact that we live by results, and what not meeting your objectives means," Luis Enrique said.

"I'm hoping that by the end of Wednesday we're not only in the knockouts but as group winners. Right now I'll accept the criticism."
 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Slovakia – Martin Dubravka

Goalkeeper Dubravka conceded the costly penalty when Slovakia lost their second match to Sweden, having earlier made a stunning save. That was one of just five stops so far at the tournament, though, while he has picked the ball out of his net twice. Spain may be wasteful, but that save rate may need to improve.

Spain – Gerard Moreno

Moreno will certainly hope to keen Dubravka busy – if he gets the opportunity. The forward missed a penalty against Poland (Spain's fifth miss from their past eight attempts at the Euros) and Luis Enrique hinted at potentially looking for a solution in attack. Moreno has been involved in more goals (nine) for Spain since his debut than any other player.
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Slovakia have won only one of their six meetings with Spain (D1 L4), a home victory in a European Championship qualifier back in October 2014 (2-1). This is their first encounter at a major tournament.
– Spain have won all three of their previous matches on home soil against Slovakia, scoring 11 goals and conceding two.
– Slovakia are unbeaten in their final group-stage game at both of their previous two major tournaments, winning 3-2 against Italy at the 2010 World Cup and drawing 0-0 with England at Euro 2016. They have progressed from the group stages at both previous tournaments.
– Including one as caretaker manager in 2018, Stefan Tarkovic has only lost two of his 11 matches in charge of Slovakia in all competitions (W4 D5 L2), with one of those defeats coming last time out against Sweden; Slovakia are yet to lose back-to-back games under him.
– Spain have drawn their last four major tournament matches (World Cup and Euros); among European nations, only Italy (five from 1980 to 1982) have ever had a longer run of successive such draws.

Luis Enrique confirmed under-fire Alvaro Morata will start Spain's Euro 2020 Group E clash against Poland on Saturday and insisted the striker is in a positive frame of mind.

Morata, whose loan at Juventus from Atletico Madrid was extended for another season this week, has been heavily criticised in recent days for his display in Spain's 0-0 draw with Sweden on Monday.

The 28-year-old squandered Spain's best chance when he fired wide with just Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen to beat – one of three off-target attempts before he was substituted in the 66th minute.

Morata, however, has netted three of Spain's four most recent European Championship goals and is his country's leading scorer since the 2016 tournament, with 16 in 32 appearances.

Luis Enrique has no worries over his form as Spain look to avoid opening a Euros tournament with no wins from their opening two matches for the first time since 1996.

"I have said that he and 10 others will play [against Poland] as an encouragement for him to find the greatest of trusts, not because he did not perform," the Spain head coach told a media conference.

"Morata does many important things in attack and defence and I am not going to give anything away.

"There is only one player who has scored more goals than Morata with 41 caps, only David Villa. For example, our great forwards like Raul or [Fernando] Torres had less than him with 41 games."

Asked how Morata's emotional state is, Luis Enrique responded: "It's very good. There are times when you talk to a player when non-verbal language tells you more and already in the game I saw it was perfect.

"Every week with Alvaro we have taught him things that I want him to improve, but this week I have not had to teach him anything. I like his smile at work and his attitude. I convey my trust in Alvaro and in everyone."

Gerard Moreno came off the bench against Sweden, with many Spain fans calling for the Villarreal striker to replace him up front from the start against Poland.

Luis Enrique, however, was keen for the focus to move away from who plays in the central striking role, insisting his side's goal threat should come from every area of the pitch.

"It is very odd to think that only the number nine of the national team has to score," the coach added.

"Everyone has the responsibility to score a goal just as in defence we all defend. We have called up the four forwards who scored the most goals in their championships throughout the season and the four of them understand each other perfectly."

Saturday's match in Seville will be the first meeting between Spain and Poland at a major tournament.

Spain have won eight of their 10 matches against Poland (D1 L1), with the sole Polish victory taking place over 40 years ago (November 1980), in a friendly played in Barcelona (2-1).

Slovakia will seek to build on a famous opening-game triumph over Poland at Euro 2020 when they face Sweden on Friday.

Stefan Tarkovic's side sit proudly atop Group E after a 2-1 win in St Petersburg on Monday, with the in-form Milan Skriniar's goal decisive.

It represented just a second victory at a European Championship for Slovakia, who are enjoying a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

After those joyous celebrations at the start of the week, Tarkovic has had to contend with the unwelcome distraction of two coronavirus positives within the camp.

Defender Denis Vavro and a member of staff are the duo affected but Tarkovic said UEFA protocols had been followed "to avoid the spread of the infection", with the pair now in self-isolation.

A win would send Slovakia through to the knockout phase but they face a Sweden side who secured a surprise result of their own in holding Spain to a goalless draw.

Janne Andersson's men showed practically no desire to attack as Spain dominated the ball, enjoying 85 per cent of possession.

Sweden clocked up just 162 passes against Spain's 917, while forward Marcus Berg exited proceedings after 69 minutes having touched the ball only 17 times.

The dynamics in this game, which will again be in St Petersburg, are altogether different and the Swedes will be under pressure to get on the front foot.

The omens do not bode well for Sweden, who have lost their second match of the group stage at each of the last four major tournaments.

However, those games were against Spain, England, Italy and Germany.

It was honours even the last time these two sides met as they shared a 1-1 draw back in 2018.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sweden – Alexander Isak

Despite Sweden being so thoroughly outplayed by Spain, Isak did manage to make a positive impression and might, in fact, have scored. His shot bounced off the knee of Marcos Llorente and struck the post, while the Real Sociedad forward laid on a glorious chance for Berg, who fluffed his lines.

Slovakia – Milan Skriniar

Inter centre-half Skriniar might once have been considered an unlikely match-winner, but after failing to score in his first 37 international outings he now has three goals in his past four appearances for Slovakia. Skriniar also led the way for his team in touches (69), clearances (10) and blocks (two), as well as winning five duels against Poland.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first meeting between Sweden and Slovakia at a major tournament (European Championship and World Cup).

- Slovakia have never beaten Sweden in their five previous encounters (D3 L2), with their last four games never producing more than two goals.

- Slovakia have won two games in total at the Euros – one against Russia in 2016 and another against Poland last time out, which took place in Russia; their match against Sweden will also be held in Russia.

- Following their 2-1 victory against Poland on MD1, Slovakia will be looking to win their opening two games at a major tournament for the first time.

- Sweden have failed to score in three consecutive matches at the Euros – their final two group games in 2016 and their opening match against Spain last time out. They had only failed to score three times in their previous 18 games at the tournament before this.

Sergio Ramos is leaving Real Madrid, the Spanish giants confirming on Wednesday that the 35-year-old defender will hold a farewell event on Thursday.

Ramos joined Madrid from Sevilla in 2005 and went on to cement his name as a legend at Santiago Bernabeu.

During his 16-year stint with Los Blancos, Ramos has won LaLiga five times and helped Madrid to four Champions League titles.

Diminishing returns last season, mainly due to injury, mean he does not quite go out on a high, but he will nevertheless be considered as one of the club greats.

BRILLIANT IN BOTH BOXES

It is not often that a defender is known for his goalscoring exploits, but Ramos certainly bucks the trend.

Indeed, he is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five European leagues since the turn of the century.

His total of 101 goals is split between Sevilla and Madrid, though he only scored three times for the Andalusian club before his move to the Spanish capital.

In fact, his tally of 98 Madrid goals mean that, since the turn of the century, the only players to outscore Ramos – who also takes a mean penalty – for the club in all competitions are Cristiano Ronaldo (450), Karim Benzema (279), Raul (225), Gonzalo Higuain (119) and Gareth Bale (105).

Ramos first hit double figures for goals in the 2016-17 campaign, scoring 10 times. He improved on that in 2018-19, registering 11, before netting 13 times in his penultimate season with Madrid, albeit seven of those came from the penalty spot.

Defending, of course, still comes first. Ramos played in 206 games in which Madrid kept a clean sheet. It is a figure beaten for the club only by Iker Casillas (243) since the 1998-99 campaign.

A FULL-BLOODED WINNER

There are no half-measures when it comes to Ramos, who tallied up 214 yellow cards in 659 Madrid appearances, seeing red on 25 occasions. Remarkably, four of those dismissals came in his first season at Madrid.

Since making his Sevilla debut, Ramos has 452 wins under his belt, with 430 coming during his time with Los Blancos.

His trophy count speaks for itself, and his mastery of the dark arts – as Liverpool fans will cite from the 2018 Champions League final – is second to none.

A consistently reliable figure in Madrid's team, he played over 40 times in all but two of the last 16 seasons. His lowest total of appearances came last term, when he managed just 21 games, all of which were starts.

He leaves Madrid as the player with the fourth-most LaLiga appearances for the club, with 469, while only Paco Gento (23) has won more than Ramos' haul of 22 trophies.

SPAIN SNUB

Luis Enrique explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included in Spain's squad for Euro 2020, despite the former Barcelona boss picking only 24 players, and that was before a coronavirus outbreak affected their preparation. 

Knee, calf and hamstring complaints limited the World Cup winner's involvement in 2021, but he had also already missed more matches than Madrid would have liked in the first half of the campaign.

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Had Ramos been able to get on the pitch more often, his performances would surely have seen him included by Luis Enrique, as he was second behind only Diego Llorente (of defenders called up) in terms of interceptions and recoveries in 2020-21.

However, he could not prove his fitness, and his last appearance in a Madrid shirt will ultimately be the disappointing Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea last month.

Now, the onus will be on Carlo Ancelotti to restructure Madrid's defence without the presence of a club stalwart.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique and his players leapt to the defence of Alvaro Morata after he was booed in their frustrating 0-0 draw with Sweden at Euro 2020.

Morata squandered Spain's best chance of their Euro 2020 Group E opener when he fired wide with just Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen to beat on Monday.

Spain had dominated the match in Seville as they made 917 passes and enjoyed 85 possession, but lacked a cutting edge in attack.

Morata was even subjected to boos and whistles by a section of Spain supporters, having failed to register any of his three attempts on target before he was substituted in the 66th minute.

"He has the personality to endure it and I would more like [him] to be applauded," Luis Enrique told a post-match media conference. 

"Morata is a great player who does things well in attack and defence.

"I have heard the whistles for Morata but then he was applauded off. He does a lot for the team and he is used to these situations so I do not think it will affect him."

Spain midfielders Marcos Llorente and Pedri also backed Morata, who has not scored in his last four international matches, to come good.

"Today he was not lucky in the face of goal, but he will be," Llorente said.

"I don't think the whistles are good. Anyone who was inside would like to be supported and applauded.

"We've got two group games left and the support of our fans is a great help."

Pedri added: "We can all fail, we all do. He [Morata] works a lot for the team and that can be seen on the field. He needs support. I tell people to keep trusting us, we are a great team.

"We created so many chances that I'm sure the goals are coming. I know there will now be good video analysis to see why it is we didn't score."

Luis Enrique felt the playing surface at Seville's La Cartuja stadium hampered his players in front of goal.

He said: "What we try to do is to generate scoring chances, the field was not helping much. If you haven't noticed the players have complained. 

"We have generated chances, we haven't scored them."

Spain began Euro 2020 with a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sweden as their lack of cutting edge in attack was borne out.

Luis Enrique's side enjoyed long spells of possession - a staggering 85% - and had the best of the chances, in the Group E encounter in Seville, but could not find a winner.

Alvaro Morata was guilty of squandering Spain's best opportunity when he fired wide with just Robin Olsen to beat.

An obdurate Sweden side executed their tactical plan to stifle Spain superbly and did threaten at the other end with Alexander Isak hitting the post.

Spain initially looked to open the game from wide areas as they clocked up the passes with Sweden completing just two passes in the opposition half inside the opening 20 minutes.

A teasing cross from Koke brought Spain their first real chance as he picked out Dani Olmo only for a superb diving one-handed save from Olsen to keep out his close-range header.

Koke whistled a shot just past the post with an angled effort struck with the outside of his boot, but should have done better on the half hour when he lifted a shot over the bar from a good position.

A mistake by Marcus Danielson let Morata burst through on goal, but with Olsen rushing off his line the striker curled his shot wide while Olmo went close again from long range.

Sweden flickered into life moments before half-time when a rare foray forward saw Isak's shot bounce off the knee of Marcos Llorente and strike the post.

Spain's play lacked intensity in the second half and some trickery by the impressive Isak created a golden opportunity for Marcus Berg on the hour, but he fluffed his shot from close range.

Olmo saw a shot blocked by Danielson, but Spain were unable to rediscover their tempo and failed to really test Olsen as the game meandered to a stalemate.

Gerard Moreno could have won it with a header from fellow substitute Pablo Sarabia's clever cross inside the six-yard box, but Olsen saved instinctively with his legs. 

Then at the death Sarabia failed to get a clean touch on a dangerous ball into the box with the goal at his mercy. 

Luis Enrique has insisted Spain do not have a lack of leaders in their group in the absence of captain Sergio Busquets.

Barcelona midfielder Busquets will miss Spain's opening Euro 2020 match against Sweden in Seville on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 32-year-old is one of the key figureheads in La Roja's squad, which is the youngest in the tournament, but Luis Enrique is confident others – including himself – can fill the void.

"We do not lack leadership," he said at a news conference ahead of Spain's Group E opener against Sweden on Monday. 

"The 23 others are going to lead because they are the ones that make the decisions on the pitch. 

"I'm going to lead from the sidelines, too, as all coaches do. If a coach doesn't lead, that's a bad sign.

"But in this national team everyone has to lead on the field. They have to carry this out. Our strength is the group and we are prepared."

Spain have won only one of their last five opening matches at a major tournament, beating the Czech Republic 1-0 at Euro 2016.

La Roja's last game at a tournament was their last-16 defeat to Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup, but Luis Enrique is optimistic of success at Euro 2020. 

"I'm not worried – we are ready," he said. "Until the contrary is proven, I'll continue to think we can compete at the highest level.

"What I'm telling you is not a lie; I really believe it. I'm still confident.

"Our match plan will always be the same. We have clear objectives in attack, to generate as many chances as possible and to dominate the rival.

"When defending we must press as high as possible to win the ball back. I hope that come tomorrow night we can find a good rhythm and maintain our levels."

Sweden are taking part in their seventh European Championship finals and enter the tournament on a five-match winning run that has seen them keep four clean sheets.

Luis Enrique is expecting a tough opening test at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja before meetings with Slovakia and Poland.

"Sweden are a team that play direct. They have strong, quality players, even if they are going to be without Dejan Kulusevski," the Spain head coach said.

"We are going to try to focus on our strongest areas.

"The first game helps set the pulse for the competition. It is not easy for many reasons, but we are hopeful we can be at our best."

There are question marks over who will start in goal for Spain, though Luis Enrique is not giving anything away in terms of team selection on the eve of the match.

"David de Gea, Robert Sanchez or Unai Simon – one of those will play," he said.

Monday's meeting will be the fourth between the two sides at a major tournament, with Spain winning twice – most recently at Euro 2008 – and Sweden winning the other.

Thiago Alcantara says a Spain squad mixing youth and experience are desperate for Euro 2020 to begin after disrupted preparations for the tournament.

Luis Enrique's side get their campaign underway on Monday when they take on Sweden at La Cartuja in Seville.

Their planning for finals was thrown into disarray when Sergio Busquets tested positive for coronavirus last week, which forced the senior squad into isolation amid fears of an outbreak.

Diego Llorente returned test results later confirmed to be a false positive, while the Under-21 squad were used for the friendly match with Lithuania on Tuesday.

The senior players are due to be given COVID-19 vaccination jabs on Friday and no further positive cases have been identified, meaning Luis Enrique should have a strong group available for selection against Sweden.

Liverpool midfielder Thiago accepts the build-up has been far from ideal but is now eager to get the tournament underway.

He told Marca: "Football has changed. Beyond talent, it will be the teams who are best prepared who will compete. We're talking about the best players in Europe at the best tournament.

"We've gotten used to playing under pressure. We're a very young team but used to that level of competition. The youngsters give us veterans a hunger to compete.

"There's another very important thing: we're very invested in what the coach asks of us. That comes from a long time ago, not from now. We're a hard-working team and we're hungry.

"I know [Luis Enrique] from the Barca youth system. He has very clear ideas. He loves the pressure after losing, possession... and winning, which is what we all want.

"The good thing about Luis is that he is always the same. He's no different depending on who he talks to."

Thiago insisted the Spain players coped well with the news of Busquets and that they are far more used to such situations than in the early stages of the pandemic.

"We're used to this situation. It's been a year and a half of living with COVID. We've been accustomed to training individually or collectively, but always with the objective of competing," he said.

"Fear was experienced in the first stage of the pandemic. It was an uncertainty on a global level. We didn't know what was going to happen.

"I was in Germany with my family and yes, there was that feeling of fear. Not here. We have great professionals around us and we comply with all the protocols they ask us to follow."

Spain boss Luis Enrique has assured captain Sergio Busquets he has a major role to play at Euro 2020 once he returns from a COVID-19 absence.

The Barcelona midfielder is said to be well in himself and able to train in isolation despite testing positive for the virus last week.

Busquets will miss Spain's opening game against Sweden in Seville on Monday; however, he may be available for the second group game on June 19, when Poland are the opposition, and there is no prospect of him being cut from Spain's squad.

"I'm going to wait for him. We are all going to wait for him," Luis Enrique said in a news conference on Thursday.

"There is plenty of time for him to come back. He will be certainly on the list.

"What Busquets brings is something impressive as an offensive and defensive midfielder. He is the captain of the national team and one of the team's leaders.

"He benefits from the fact that he was infected so early. We will study each case individually."

Luis Enrique is looking for positives and working on the assumption that Busquets will be available for the rest of Spain's campaign once he has returned to camp.

Amid questions over whether the squad might be vaccinated before their campaign gets under way, Luis Enrique says it would be important to establish certainty around that prospect, particularly given side-effects are so common following jabs.

"As a coach it is something that we are considering. I would like that if it happens, we get vaccinated right now because it would make me angry to be left without a player for it," the Spain head coach added.

"To this day we have no guarantees that the team will be vaccinated.

"On a personal level it is not pleasant to be waiting for a PCR result. We make the players wake up very early so the results arrive as soon as possible. The waiting is not a pleasant situation, but I have experienced much worse."

Luis Enrique had five months away from duties with Spain in 2019, enduring family tragedy in that time as his daughter Xana died from bone cancer.

The COVID-19 situation pales against that personal trauma for the former Barcelona and Real Madrid star, who said: "For me this is child's play compared to some things that I have had to experience."

At the same time, he recognises that on a professional level the pandemic could be disruptive to La Roja over the coming weeks.

"The virus is uncontrollable and despite respecting and enforcing the protocols it sometimes appears. We are not looking for culprits, but solutions," Luis Enrique added.

"I still think without any doubt that Spain are one of the favourites to win the European Championship. We are in that group of six to seven teams that are candidates for the title."

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