The antidote to those types of shenanigans appears to be to omit everyone from Real Madrid altogether. No Don Sergio Ramos, though at present just one from Barcelona in Alba, and just two from Liga champions Atlético in Marcos Llorente, who will play despite one tabloid picturing him on holiday yesterday, and Koke, the experienced midfielder. This team has a more international look, with ten players from the Premier League and others playing in Serie A, France and in the Bundesliga.
If Luis Enrique’s team may feel somewhat unfamiliar, though perhaps not for the Swedes, who faced them in qualifying. Let’s get it over with: no Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his knee twanging at the end of the season robbing us all of a great comeback but an awful lot of toxic masculinity, too. So, swings and roundabouts. And there’s always Seb Larsson who never went away in the first place. This does look a decent Sweden team, perhaps better than that knocked out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage by England. Alexander Isak’s the young man to watch, as you will know from all the previews.
These teams met once before in the Euro finals, a 2-1 Euro 2008 win for Spain in Innsbruck, achieved at the last gasp by a winning goal by David Villa, in a game pre-billed as Villa/Fernandes Torres v Big Zlat/Henrik Larsson. The Spanish pair got one each, with Zlatan getting one, too.
Let’s hope for a game as good as that. Kick-off at 8pm BST. Join me.