Spain U-21s - England U-21s Preview: Tournament favourites meet Stuart Pearce's men, who hope to go one step further than 2009's final defeat
Both sides finished as runners-up in qualifying, but the Spanish boast two World Cup winners in their squad, while their opponents are without several key players
By Andrew Kennedy
|Spain (4-3-3): De Gea; Azpilicueta, Botia, Dominguez, Didac Vila; Thiago, Javi Martinez, Capel; Bojan, Adrian Lopez, Mata.|
Spanish coach Luis Milla has an abundance of talent to choose from, with Thiago and Bojan two of five players currently on the books at La Liga and Champions League winners Barcelona included in his squad.
Whilst Sergio Busquets' promotion to the senior side means he no longer features in the Under-21 set-up, Manchester United-bound goalkeeper David de Gea lines up in goal, with Sergio Canales the only other absentee, having failed to impress at Real Madrid this season.
|England (4-4-2): Fielding; Mancienne, Smalling, Jones, Bertrand; Rodwell, Henderson, Muamba, Rose; Sturridge, Welbeck.|
Stuart Pearce will field a strong side on Sunday, despite a number of key withdrawals, including Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll, Micah Richards and Kieran Gibbs.
With Michael Mancienne, Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson having made summer moves already, and Jack Rodwell, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck all heavily linked with transfers away from their respective clubs, there will be ample motivation to perform in Denmark.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
Spain have two World Cup winners within their squad, with Javi Martinez and Juan Mata (pictured together, right) both included in the senior side that coach Vicente del Bosque led to victory in South Africa last year.
The last time these two sides met was in 2009, with second half goals from Fraizer Campbell and James Milner sealing a 2-0 victory for Stuart Pearce's side.
Having been beaten in 2007's semi-final 13-12 on penalties by the Netherlands, and then crushed 4-0 by Germany in the 2009 final, England will hope to go one step further and win their third European Under-21 title, having already done so in 1982 and 1984.
Spain have also succeeded twice in the competition, in 1986 and 1998, and have finished runners-up twice, most recently in 1996, and at the hands of Sunday's opponents in 1984.
England are ranked No.1 by Uefa at Under-21 level, and finished second to Greece in qualifying, as did Spain to the Netherlands. They are joined by Ukraine and the Czech Republic in Group B.
|PLAYERS TO WATCH
Spain – Bojan Krkic
The Barcelona forward has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou in recent weeks, with Udinese and Roma touted as destinations.
Despite having scored 26 goals in 104 appearances for his club, the 20-year-old may feel he has been on the periphery of Barcelona's success since his 2007 debut season, and a strong European championships will help his first-team cause whether it be in Catalonia or at pastures new.
England – Phil Jones
The 19-year-old's recent switch to Old Trafford may have been premature due to the interest of Arsenal and Liverpool, with Sir Alex Ferguson acting quickly to secure a £16 million transfer and ward off competition for a player who was described by Stuart Pearce as a future England captain.
Jones will have to be solid alongside his fellow centre-half and new club-mate Chris Smalling in order to nullify the threat of Spain's attacking line, and a strong performance would also boost his first-team chances at Manchester United.
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Top 3 Predictions
Spain Under 21 1-2 England Under 21
- 14.8 %
Spain Under 21 2-1 England Under 21
- 11.86 %
Spain Under 21 2-0 England Under 21
- 11.58 %
|UEFA European U-21 Championship (EU21)||12 Jun 2011||Spain Under 21 1 - England Under 21 1|
|UEFA European U-21 Championship (EU21)||18 Jun 2009||Spain Under 21 0 - England Under 21 2|
|Spain Under 21|
|18 Nov 2013||Albania Under 21 0 - Spain Under 21 2||EU21|
|14 Nov 2013||Bosnia U21 1 - Spain Under 21 6||EU21|
|14 Oct 2013||Spain Under 21 1 - Hungary 0||EU21|
|10 Oct 2013||Spain Under 21 3 - Bosnia U21 2||EU21|
|9 Sep 2013||Spain Under 21 4 - Albania Under 21 0||EU21|
|1||David de Gea||Goalkeeper|
|-||Rubén Miño Peralta|
|-||Mikel San José Domínguez|
A number of the England starting XI have had faith placed in them by some large transfer fees from Premier League clubs, and I expect them to prove their worth on the pitch with a hard fought 2-1 victory.