Spain vs Czech Republic preview: Two-time defending champs begin their title defense

La Furia Roja begin their road for a third consecutive European Championship against the Czech Republic.

Spain vs Czech Republic preview: Two-time defending champs begin their title defense
Photo via Johnathan Walsh/VAVEL

Spain begin the defense of their European Championship tomorrow against the Czech Republic. After a dreadful 2014 FIFA World Cup, Spain look to get back on track in major competitions, bringing some fresh faces that were not there during their dreadful run in Brazil. Meanwhile for the Czechs, they look to begin their road back to the quarterfinals which is how far they made it back in 2012.

Previous meetings

This is the fourth time that the two sides have met. Despite the long history between the two teams, the Czech Republic has only been recognized as a country since 1992 when Czechoslovakia split into Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Their first ever meeting with the Czech Republic officially recognized as its own entity by FIFA was in the 1996 FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds with the two sides drawing 0-0. The return leg saw Spain win 1-0 in Valladolid thanks to a goal by Fernando Hierro.

Their third and fourth meetings came during the 2012 European Championships qualifying stages. Spain took the first leg once again, this time in Granada. David Villa’s brace was good enough to cancel out Jaroslav Plasil’s goal. In the Czech capital once again, Spain completed the sweep this time around with goals from Juan Mata and Xabi Alonso.

Spain team news

There are no major injuries in the squad, but the team’s 1-0 loss to Georgia raised concerns about the players in that starting XI. With Pedro and Cesc Fabregas struggling, it’s likely that Koke and Nolito come in. Iker Casillas is likely to start due to David de Gea’s alleged off-field issues. Alvaro Morata has a hamstring injury but is probable to start.

Spain predicted XI: Casillas; Juanfran, Sergio Ramos, Piqué, Alba; Iniesta, Busquets, Koke; Silva, Morata, Nolito

Spain's national football players joke around during a training session in Saint Martin de Re's stadium on June 9, 2016, on the eve of the start of the Euro 2016 football tournament. / AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU
Spain's national football players joke around during a training session in Saint Martin de Re's stadium on June 9, 2016, on the eve of the start of the Euro 2016 football tournament. / AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Czech Republic team news

Borek Dockal is the only injury concern for the Czechs. The right midfielder limped off in their final warm-up against Russia so losing him would be a major blow.

Czech Republic predicted XI: Cech; Kaderabek, Sivok, Kavec, Limbersky; Plasil, Darida; Dokal, Kolar, Krejci, Necid

Tomas Rosicky of Czech Republic attends the Czech Republic press conference at Stadium Municipal on June 12, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)
Tomas Rosicky of Czech Republic attends the Czech Republic press conference at Stadium Municipal on June 12, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)

Importance of the match

It's always good to get off to a good start in a major tournament but even more important now, knowing that one of the teams in your group has three points to their name. Croatia defeated Turkey 1-0 thanks to a brilliant Luka Modric strike. This group is wide open for anyone to take so three points to any side is massive.