Real Madrid hero Sergio Ramos wants to mark 160th Spain cap with victory against England

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Sergio Ramos will lead Spain in their Wembley clash against England.

Sergio Ramos hopes to celebrate his 160th Spain appearance with victory over England and qualification for the Nations League finals on Monday.

Spain won 2-1 at Wembley last month in Luis Enrique’s first game as head coach and a victory in Seville would see Spain triumph in League A Group 4.

But Ramos on Sunday refused to underestimate Gareth Southgate’s World Cup semi-finalists.

The Real Madrid defender, who is in sight of Iker Casillas’ national record of 167 appearances, told a media conference: “We know that England’s level of difficulty is tremendous.

“We have a great team in front of us, despite the good game we played at Wembley, they had an excellent World Cup, semi-finalists with a lot of personality.

“They have attacking players that hurt a lot and we are going to try and keep (Harry) Kane from scoring, because it will be good for us.”

On his personal landmark, Ramos said: “It is gratifying to spend so long in the national team.

“It fills me with strength and motivates me to continue beating records.”

Spain endured a disappointing World Cup, losing in the last-16 to hosts Russia on penalties.

But confidence has been restored by recent results, including Thursday’s 4-1 win over Wales in Cardiff.

Enrique said: “What gives us the mathematical classification is victory.

“We will try to overcome a very difficult opponent who is doing things very well.

“I like Southgate as a coach. They always try to play the ball. He’s adapted to his players, something we all have to do. I followed him and I like the way he plays football.

“He has just renewed (his contract, until 2022) and that means they trust him – and he has helped me learn English with his press conferences.”

Enrique is wary of England’s set-piece strength, adding: “We must be vigilant and ensure that we generate the least possible occasions (for set-pieces).”

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Totaalvoetbal is back and so are the Netherlands after epic Germany thrashing

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After four years in the wilderness, the future’s – finally – Oranje.

Saturday’s riotous 3-0 slaying of bitter rivals Germany provided the perfect antidote to the misery of missing Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018.

Schadenfreude was suffered by Die Mannschaft in a loss that was their heaviest-ever in the derby fixture, plus a first one recorded against unfriendly neighbours in 16 years. Hopes about a fresh dawn after the summer’s capitulation as holders in Russia was brought to a premature end by a Dutch outfit now teeming with the property they must covet – youthful promise.

Coveted Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong bettered revered opponent Toni Kroos in every department. Teenage colleague Matthijs de Ligt was a rock at the back, while Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng appeared well past their sell-by dates.

On the right-hand side, PSV Eindhoven debutants Denzel Dumfries and Steven Bergwijn – who boast a combined age of 43 – presented constant sources of danger and dynamism.

Rejuvenated Lyon forward Memphis Depay proved unplayable, struck on the break after staid opponents did precious little with dominant – and increasingly outmoded – possession and rattled the crossbar.

The challenge now for head coach Ronald Koeman is to carry this renaissance into Euro 2020. Sustainability is essential after such fallow years.

Vitally for Netherlands supporters, a marriage of the traditional values of ‘totaalvoetbal’ – Total Football – and the relentless demands of the 21st-century game was on show at Johan Cruyff Arena.

They have the talents, once again, to play the Dutch way. Tuesday’s friendly against brilliant Belgium will be a test of Koeman’s resolve.

When European football’s great aesthetes continuously embrace pragmatism and stutter while trying to return to their laudable principles, everyone loses.

Joy was found this weekend beyond the sight of bedraggled, desperate and despised opponents being picked apart on the counter-attack at will in the stretched second half.

This was everything, and more, Koeman could have hoped for.

That it was achieved via the 4-3-3 formation of old provided an extra shot in the arm.

The continent’s great dreamers have choked while the dogmas of old have either been rejected, or rendered worthless.

Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system was difficult to stomach, even when it took them to World Cup 2014’s semi-finals.

Successors Guus Hiddink, Danny Blind and Dick Advocaat then cataclysmically failed to twin a return to the bold tactics of old and success. Genuine successors to the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie were nowhere to be seen.

Unforgivably quiet summers followed.

Bitterness defines the decade-long animosity shared by Koeman and Van Gaal. Uncomfortable similarities were made apparent, however, when the former decided the only way to avert a modern crisis was to build from defence.

Centre-backs Stefan de Vrij of Inter Milan, Ajax’s De Ligt and Liverpool virtuoso Van Dijk would underpin any progress.

Distant, indeed, from the Cruyffian method that inspired Koeman’s success – largely as a buccaneering centre-back or sweeper – in Barcelona’s ‘Dream Team’ of the early 1990s.

Koeman’s first six matches with a five-man defence had witnessed two wins, two draws and two losses. A mixed bag, from which few cherished memories were formed.

It would take until the seventh game of Koeman’s reign for the 4-3-3 to return. The outcome was startling.

Timeliness, is of course, a major cause of this latest result.

Blind handed a 17-year-old De Ligt his international debut in Bulgaria in March 2017. A pair of callow errors under the high ball followed and he was hooked at half-time in a 2-0 defeat that seriously impinged hopes of making World Cup 2018.

Now, he’s world football’s brightest defensive star at 19-years old.

De Jong was regularly turning out for Jong Ajax until 2017/18. As for Depay, his talent was going to waste at Manchester United prior to January 2017’s rescue act by Lyon.

Since he got back up to speed by that October, he’s scored seven goals in his last 11 internationals.

Koeman’ great insight has been to work out a structure to consistently get the best out of these future talismans.

Both of Atalanta defensive midfielder Marten de Roon’s Oranje starts have come under him – including the Germany triumph. His understated game had previously gone underappreciated.

Besiktas forward Ryan Babel at 31 years old is producing the most consistent football of his career.

These constituent parts helped the Netherlands successfully go back to the future versus Germany. Containing buoyant Belgium is a different matter, all together.

If this return to the principles of old also proves effective against Eden Hazard and Co., they will not be standing on the outside looking in when Euro 2020 kicks off.

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Five talking points as England need a result against Spain

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England face Spain in Seville on Monday night looking to build on their Nations League draw in Croatia.

Gareth Southgate’s side have picked up just one point from their opening two fixtures in the new tournament, while Spain started with victories over both Croatia and the Three Lions.

Here’s a look at the talking points ahead of the clash at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Group B or not Group B, that is the question

England are without a win from their two Nations League matches to date, Friday’s stalemate in Croatia preceded by a 2-1 defeat at home to Spain last month.

With groups settled on a head-to-head basis if teams finish on equal points and Spain the favourites to progress, even a draw in Seville could be the difference between England remaining amongst the Group A elite for the 2020/21 edition.

While the Nations League has been derided by some, most notably Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, Southgate will be keen not to become the first England boss to suffer the ignominy of relegation.

England still look for their first Nations League win.

England still look for their first Nations League win.

Banned aid

Facing Spain in Seville was always going to be a challenge for England, but it is a test made more difficult by the fact both John Stones and Jordan Henderson are suspended.

The pair were shown yellow cards in the draw in Rijeka to add to their bookings in the opening Group A4 loss to Spain at Wembley and, as a result, will miss the return fixture.

With no further call-ups expected, it remains to be seen how Southgate fills the considerable void left by two of his most trusted players.

Suspended:  Jordan Henderson.

Suspended: Jordan Henderson.

Ja-done enough to start?

Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho became the first man to play for England born this side of the millennium when he came off the bench against Croatia.

Although it was just a short, 12-minute cameo for the 18-year-old, he looked lively and was hungry for the ball in an attempt to inspire a late win for Three Lions.

With Marcus Rashford misfiring and Raheem Sterling without an England goal in three years, Southgate could be tempted to give Sancho a chance from the start against Spain.

New kid on the block:  Jadon Sancho.

New kid on the block: Jadon Sancho.

Enrique’s evolution

Luis Enrique was appointed as Spain manager following a disappointing World Cup which began with previous boss Julen Lopetegui sacked on the eve of the competition.

With a new generation of players now having to be blended with the experienced names, former Barcelona boss Enrique has started well.

A 2-1 win at Wembley in the reverse Nations League fixture last month got the ball rolling before Spain thumped Croatia 6-0 three days later – Wales were the next victims, beaten 4-1 in a friendly last week.

Man in charge:  Luis Enrique.

Man in charge: Luis Enrique.

The pain for Kane can end with goals in Spain

England captain Harry Kane may have won the golden boot as the World Cup’s top goalscorer in the summer but the 25-year-old has not scored in his last six internationals.

If he does not score in Monday’s game against Spain in the same competition it will be the longest barren run of his senior England career.

With plenty of suggestion he needs a rest, Kane insists he is ready and raring to go in Seville as he eyes a first international goal since the last-16 victory over Colombia on July 3.

Drought:  Harry Kane.

Drought: Harry Kane.

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