Spain coach Luis Enrique declared himself an admirer of England manager Gareth Southgate ahead of the two sides’ meeting on Monday in the UEFA Nations League, saying that he even studies his counterpart’s news conferences. “I like Southgate as a coach and what he offers, he always wants the ball even though his team do not exactly dominate possession, and he adapts to his players,” Luis Enrique told reporters on Sunday.
“I have followed him, I even watch his conferences because I like what he says and I treat it as a free English lesson. I hope against Spain luck doesn’t fall on his side but once the game is over, I wish him all the luck in the world.”
Spain top the standings in Nations League A Group 4 with six points from two games and a win on Monday against the World Cup semi-finalists would see them advance to the semi-finals of the competition. England have one point from their two games and look set to battle it out with Croatia, with whom they drew 0-0 on Friday, to avoid relegation to League B.
Spain breezed to a 4-1 friendly win over Wales last week to make it three victories out of three since Luis Enrique took charge of the team. Spain came from behind to beat England 2-1 at Wembley last month and Luis Enrique warned his players to be wary of the side’s aerial threat when they take to the pitch at Real Betis’s cavernous Benito Villamarin stadium in Seville.
“It’s one of England’s virtues, they made the most of it during the World Cup and we’ll have to be ready for it,” added the coach. “We have to try to ensure they win the fewest amount of free kicks and corners against us, and we will also have to watch out for their counter-attacks, which is another of their virtues.”
Spain captain Sergio Ramos said the mood in the camp had been lifted since Luis Enrique’s arrival after their disastrous showing at the World Cup, where they were knocked out by unfancied hosts Russia on penalties in the last 16 after enduring serious upheaval when coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked.
“After the World Cup the morale was pretty low but after a generational change and a change in coach we have recovered order and discipline. We have started winning again and are playing brilliant football,” said the defender, who is set for his 160th appearance for Spain. “We now need to maintain that excitement and keep playing unique and fabulous football. It’s a good sign and we’re on the ideal path.”