20:00 BST, Sunday 3rd June, Estadio de la Ceramica (Villarreal, Spain), Sky Sports
Spain play the first of their two World Cup warm-up matches by hosting Switzerland, the side that beat them in the group stage in 2010.
In Julen Lopetegui, Spain now have a coach with a very different approach to his predecessor, the legendary Vicente del Bosque.
Gone are the days of rigidly sticking to their trademark 4-3-3, with Lopetegui having been keen to experiment, they will likely line up in a 4-2-3-1 in Russia this summer.
The Spaniards seem less fancied than in previous years, but their squad is oozing with quality in every position and they will be dangerous this summer.
As for Switzerland, they have picked a stern test in facing the Spaniard’s pre tournament, possibly with one eye on the challenge they will face in Rostov against Brazil on June 17.
This is possibly the best team Switzerland have had in recent years, more capable of moving the ball than before, and a good performance in Villarreal could provide a useful confidence boost ahead of the finals.
Spain may look a little different to usual, with Real Madrid quintet Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Isco and Lucas Vasquez likely to not be selected from the start after joining up with the squad late following their Champions League triumph, although it’s not an impossibility.
Thiago isn’t quite a number ten like Isco but could be a contender to step into the Real Madrid’s shoes on Sunday. Beyond Ramos and Pique Spain are a little light on numbers at centre back.
If Ramos and Nacho don’t feature from the start, Cesar Azpilicueta could be the man to step into an unfamiliar role of centre back in a back four. This would open up an opportunity for young Real Sociedad right back Alvaro Odriozola.
Diego Costa is likely to lead the line despite a season of chequered fitness and form at club level. Rodrigo could be a contender to start after a glittering season with Valencia.
Vladimir Petkovic has overseen an evolution of sorts, with Switzerland now playing with more possession on average. In order for this to work, Granit Xhaka playing well be pivotal.
The Arsenal midfielder has the ability, but must play with discipline and intelligence for the Swiss to do well in Russia, and that will be tested on Sunday by a supremely gifted Spanish midfield.
Switzerland’s full backs have been a strength in recent tournaments, despite Stephan Lichtsteiner’s advancing years. The 34-year-old provides great experience and leadership as captain, having played in some of the world’s biggest games in recent years.
Ricardo Rodriguez is a very talented player and could cause Odriozola problems down the left flank if the young Sociedad defender is selected.
Just like for Stoke in recent years, the performance of Xherdan Shaqiri will be crucial if Switzerland are to look a force going forward.
Key Players: David Silva (Spain) vs Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
32-year-old David Silva’s only start on the way to World Cup glory in 2010 was in the group opener against the Swiss in Durban as the Spaniards fell to a shock 1-0 defeat.
Whilst Vicente del Bosque had the depth of talent to only feel the need to call on Silva once more in the tournament, as an 86th-minute substitute in the semi-final.
Fast forward eight years and Silva is a key man for his country with well over a hundred caps, remarkable in such a golden era of Spanish talent, reflecting what a gifted player he’s been.
After a season of wonderful performances on the way to winning a third Premier League title with Manchester City, Silva could potentially torment the Swiss. His uncanny ability to find pockets of space, coupled with his intelligent passing could be key for Spain in Villarreal on Sunday, and in Russia this summer.
Xherdan Shaqiri, on the other hand, has had a season to forget. Relegated with Stoke, and in hot water for criticising his teammates in a magazine interview, Shaqiri could do with a good World Cup to earn a good move away for next season.
The 26-year-old scored one of the goals of the tournament at Euro 2016, with a sublime overhead kick against Poland. He is a player that possesses the talent to hurt Spain, especially if it’s a patched up defence for La Roja in Villarreal.
Could Spain cope with an injury to Ramos or Pique?
Spain have been fortunate enough to have two of the greatest defenders of a generation at the same time over the last decade, but with Ramos possibly missing out against Switzerland, it will be interesting to see if one of Spain’s other defenders can fill the void.
With Switzerland providing more than decent opposition as a side that consistently qualifies for major tournaments, if someone does have to deputise for Ramos, they will get a decent test.
Will Spain suffer from a lack of pace?
They possess many of the most technically gifted players in the world, but Spain have little in their side.
It’s not quite tiki-taka, but Spain do still play possession-based football, dominating the ball and moving it quickly to try to create space to exploit, and they have the players to do it. But if Switzerland can remain solid, do Spain have the ability to inject some pace in order to give them something different to think about?
Is Johan Djourou good enough for this level?
Djourou was a bit of a ridiculed figure at this level, but has carved out a very good international career for himself, with 73 caps a very good effort.
At 31 now, and having never been the most convincing defender with either Arsenal or Hamburg, can Johan Djourou contain the dangerous Spaniards on the eve of his fourth World Cup.
Prediction: Spain 2-1 Switzerland
While Spain could be without some of their star players for this game, they will stay go in as heavy favourites.
Switzerland will be a stern test and they can cause the Spaniard’s problems but expect the likes of David Silva and Diego Costa to have enough to get by them.
It should be a close game, but we are tipping Spain to edge it.
Can Switzerland cause problems to Spain? Let us know below.
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