Spain defender Cesar Azpilicueta is anticipating another difficult encounter as the reigning European Champions prepare to host Slovakia in Saturday’s Euro 2016 qualifier.
The only defeat of Vicente del Bosque’s side’s campaign came at the hands of Slovakia, who claimed a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture in Zilina last October.
Juraj Kucka gave Slovakia the lead on that occasion, with Miroslav Stoch ensuring success three minutes from time after Paco Alcacer had cancelled out the opener.
Slovakia remain unbeaten and head Group C by three points from Spain and can approach the game with a degree of freedom knowing that qualification is within their grasp.
Regardless of the result in Oviedo, Jan Kozak’s men will qualify for the finals providing they complete a double overt third-placed Ukraine, who trail the leaders by six points, on Tuesday.
Spain can qualify with wins over Slovakia and Macedonia if Ukraine fail to win in either of their games in this round of fixtures. Mikhail Fomenko’s men host Belarus before travelling to Zilina.
And Chelsea full-back Azpilicueta has been quick to stress the importance of gaining revenge on Slovakia.
“We know that these matches are key,” he said. “We are going to display a tough and difficult match. We play at home with the local fans’ support, which will be amazing.
“Everything is at stake- They’re current group leaders we want to be first in the group. Three key points are stake. Fans understand and will show their support at the match.”
Slovakia have never qualified for the Euros as an independent country, with their only appearance at a major international tournament coming in a run to the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
Despite Slovakia’s fine performances in qualification, history is against them, with Spain unbeaten in their last 30 home qualifiers.
The visitors also have a number of major absentees going into the encounter. Captain Martin Skrtel is suspended while fellow centre-back Jan Durica is injured.
Milan midfielder Juraj Kucka is also banned and Vladimir Weiss is not fit to feature at Estadio Nuevo Carlos Tartiere.
Yet for all the issues afflicting his team, Kozak remains confident his players will be able to provide another stern test of Spain’s mettle.
Kozak said: “We’re going to put out a competitive side against Spain, a side that will fight for a result.”