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England manager Gareth Southgate wants to improve his side’s “non-existent” record against the “very best” when they host Spain in the Nations League.
The Three Lions return to Wembley on Saturday after finishing fourth at this summer’s World Cup, and Southgate expects his players to show the home crowd “what they are capable of”.
“We want to test ourselves against the very best,” said Southgate.
“We have played Spain, Germany, Brazil and Italy in the last 18 months.”
The Three Lions have drawn all four of those games, but Southgate acknowledges their longer-term record is not as good.
“It’s been very rare to beat those teams since the 1960s and ’70s,” he said. “Our history isn’t impressive.
“Ideally over the next couple of years we’d like to go into the European Championship having beaten those teams, and to do that, we have to be spot on in every area.”
England have won one of their past five matches against Germany, one of their past six against Spain, one of their past eight against Italy, and one of their past 11 against Brazil.
But Southgate says his side are “evolving and improving”.
“Over the summer, you are looking for results,” he said. “Now it is about developing the team and looking at how we play.
“If we compare now to how we played against Spain two years ago, the detail we go to now is much more advanced.”
‘Golden boy’ Kane still looking for more
Captain Harry Kane is set to wear a personalised pair of golden boots for England’s return to Wembley, having finished the World Cup as top scorer.
The Tottenham striker’s six goals meant he won the Golden Boot in Russia – and he has a custom-made pair of boots for Saturday’s game.
But the 25-year-old insists he can improve his performances.
“To finish a World Cup as top goalscorer was something I was extremely proud of but I could’ve done better,” said Kane.
“It was a great tournament and I scored some important goals, but there were certain finishes and movements I could have done better.
“It’s all part of the learning curve, but to feel you could have done more at a World Cup after winning the Golden Boot is exciting.”
Sterling and Lallana missing for England
England have no remaining injury concerns for their first match of the new Nations League.
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling and Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana pulled out earlier in the week, but Southgate watched a fully-fit squad train at St George’s Park on Friday.
Saturday’s match is followed by a friendly against Switzerland at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium on Tuesday.
Spain must ‘stop being predictable’
Saturday’s match is Spain’s first under Luis Enrique, and the former Barcelona and Roma manager wants to change the side’s possession-focused style.
Spain won three major tournaments in a row – Euro 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup – but went out of this summer’s World Cup in the second round, despite having 75% of possession against Russia.
“The fact we have been a reference over the past decade means that everyone knows our national team,” said Enrique.
“The objective is to evolve and stop being predictable.”
Enrique has dropped Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba from his squad, while 102-cap defender Gerard Pique has retired from international football.
The squad features four Chelsea players – Marcos Alonso, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta and Alvaro Morata – along with Manchester United’s David de Gea.