England begin their post-World Cup fixtures with a Nations League match against Spain.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at La Roja ahead of Saturday’s game at Wembley.
Spain suffered a shock early exit from the World Cup after getting knocked out by hosts Russia in the last-16 this summer, following on from their 2014 group-stage disappointment. They played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with Portugal before beating Iran 1-0 and drawing 2-2 with Morocco unconvincingly.
Fernando Hierro, who has since been replaced by Luis Enrique, then saw his side defeated on penalties by a confident Russian side.
After sacking Julien Lopetegui two days before their first World Cup game and naming the director of football Hierro as his replacement, Spain now turn to Enrique in order to get the best out of their star-studded squad.
The former Barcelona boss has already had to quash rumours of a problem between him and captain Sergio Ramos while he has dropped Jordi Alba from the squad entirely.
New boss Enrique is expected to continue Spain’s tradition of playing possession football but he is likely to employ a more aggressive, faster style to La Roja’s play. Spain, like Barcelona did under Enrique, will play in tighter spaces and be more direct when on the counter.
Similarly to the Catalan outfit, Enrique’s side will also rely on individual moments of brilliance from the likes of Marcos Asensio, Isco and Suso.
Marcos Alonso joins three other Chelsea players in the squad and his call-up comes alongside the expectancy that Spain will play on the front foot. Alonso is capable of playing as a wing-back and he may be given this role even though Spain will adopt a back four.
The only other Premier League player in the squad is Manchester United’s David De Gea, while Suso and Raul Albiol are Serie A’s only representatives and Thiago is the sole Bundesliga man. The rest ply their trade in their home country.
There was already a little bit of noise about him, but Ethan Ampadu might as well have grabbed a megaphone and screamed out loud such was the impact of his performance on his senior Wales bow.
The Chelsea central defender, who can also operate in midfield, was superb as Wales crushed the Republic of Ireland 4-1 in Cardiff on Thursday and ensured Ryan Giggs’ reign really took off in the UEFA Nations League opener.
Ampadu ran the show in midfield for the rampant Welsh, belying his 17 years with a calm and composed performance alongside the experienced duo of Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey.
The highlight was when the teenager muscled Jonathan Walters off the ball in midfield, advanced up the pitch and played a precise pass into Ramsey who scored to make it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time to the hosts.
Talk beforehand had surrounded the fact the Exeter City academy graduate could still choose to play for England as his previous two Wales appearances had been in non-competitive fixtures – but that is no longer a concern for Giggs, or thankfully for Welsh fans.
For those of you who didn’t know a thing about Wales’ newest young talent before Thursday, we’ve put together a handy fact file on the supremely talented teenager.
Name: Ethan Kwame Colm Raymond Ampadu
Birthplace: Exeter, England
Position: Central defender/midfielder
CAREER STATS (CLUB)
Exeter City 2016/17
Chelsea 2017/18 Professional Development League
2015 England U16
2016 Wales U17
2016 Wales U19
# Born in Exeter, Devon, Ampadu is the son of ex-professional footballer Patrick Kwame Ampadu, who started his career at Arsenal before going on to make the majority of his appearances at Swansea City and Exeter City.
# A product of the Exeter youth academy, Ampadu made his senior debut aged just 15 years, 10 months and 26 days, in an EFL Cup first round match against Brentford at St James Park on August 9, 2016, playing the full 120 minutes of a 1-0 victory.
# He became the club’s youngest-ever player, breaking an 87-year-old record set by Cliff Bastin, and was named man of the match. A week later, he made his league debut in a 1-0 home defeat against Crawley Town.
# On July 1, 2017, Ampadu signed a contract with Premier League club Chelsea.
# After making a handful of cup appearances and his Premier League debut last season, Chelsea were ordered to pay his former club Exeter £1.3m following a tribunal, which will rise to £2.5m.
# Ampadu made his debut for Chelsea on September 20 in an EFL Cup third round match against Nottingham Forest, coming on in the 55th minute for Cesc Fabregas. Doing so made him the first player born in the 2000s to play for the Chelsea senior team.
# At 17 years and six days old, he also became the youngest player to debut for the Stamford Bridge club in over 10 years.
# On December 12, he made his Premier League debut for Chelsea, coming on as a substitute against Huddersfield Town.
# Ampadu was eligible to represent Wales, England, the Republic of Ireland and Ghana. He played once for England U-16s in 2015 but has since gone on to represent Wales at U-17 and U-19 level.
# Qualifies for Wales as his mother is Welsh and he has been part of their developmental teams since the age of 12.
# He was called into the senior Wales squad ahead of their World Cup qualifier with Serbia in May 2017. He was forced to drop out of Wales’ squad for the game against Serbia in June to concentrate on finishing his GCSEs.
# Was called up again in November for friendlies against France and Panama and made his debut on November 10 at the Stade de France against Les Bleus, coming on as a 63rd-minute substitute for Joe Ledley in a 2-0 defeat.
# Ampadu was still eligible for England up until Thursday’s game against Ireland as his previous two appearances for Wales had been friendlies.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT HIM:
Wales manager Ryan Giggs:
“Ethan is a talented player. Even more so than that, as a person he is so balanced, so mature, for such a young player – he’s going to be magnificent.”
Former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland defender Phil Babb:
“He’s got composure beyond his years. The world is his oyster. I think Maurizio Sarri has to look at him and say ‘wow – what a player I’ve got here’. He could have been playing in slippers, he was that good.”
Former Blackburn and Republic of Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews:
“He was like a Rolls-Royce in midfield. It was a big call to leave Joe Ledley out but it shows the confidence Ryan Giggs has in him.”
Former Chelsea and Scotland winger Pat Nevin:
“Ethan Ampadu is very likely to push David Luiz, Toni Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill as much as just about any other centre-back we could have thrown £50m or £60m at.”
“Like a Rolls-Royce in midfield” and so good “he could have been playing in slippers” were some of the glowing terms used to describe Wales’ teenage sensation Ethan Ampadu on his competitive debut for the Dragons on Thursday night.
Ryan Giggs’ new-look young side thrashed the Republic of Ireland 4-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium to get their UEFA Nations League campaign off to a flying start.
The Republic had earned a 1-0 win at the same venue 11 months ago, which saw them book a place in the European play-offs for the World Cup at Wales’ expense.
But Giggs has replaced Chris Coleman since then and has a fresh new crop of emerging talent at his disposal. One of the brightest stars is Chelsea’s Ampadu – who shone on his competitive debut, having twice appeared in friendlies at the end of 2017.
Ampadu can play in midfield or in defence and was magnificent in Wales’ mammoth win, with the 17-year-old looking at ease on the international stage and instigating the third goal – outmuscling Jonathan Walters before advancing and playing a superb pass to Aaron Ramsey who scored to put Wales in control on the stroke of half time.
Giggs predicted a bright future for Ampadu after the game and former Ireland internationals Phil Babb and Keith Andrews were hugely impressed by what they saw from the former Exeter City player.
Babb, the former Liverpool defender, said: “He’s got composure beyond his years. The world is his oyster. I think Maurizio Sarri has to look at him and say ‘wow – what a player I’ve got here’.
“He could have been playing in slippers, he was that good.”
“He was like a Rolls-Royce in midfield,” added former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Andrews.
“It was a big call to leave Joe Ledley out but it shows the confidence Ryan Giggs has in him.”
Ampadu made seven first-team appearances for Chelsea under Antonio Conte last season and featured prominently during pre-season under Sarri but has yet to play under the new boss in the league.
“He has so much awareness when picking the ball and where to go,” added Andrews.
“When the full-backs went forward, he dropped back into the defence and doesn’t make rash decisions when in critical areas of the pitch.
“He’s got the build, the physique. Where is he going to play? I’d say if he’s that good in possession he’ll stroll it in midfield.”