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Wembley pilgrimage ´an honour´ for Anglophile Lopetegui

Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui is a self-confessed English football obsessive who hopes to make his mark at Wembley on Tuesday.

Former Porto boss Lopetegui has enjoyed a successful start to his reign with the national team, earning 10 points from four World Cup qualifiers following a 2-0 friendly win over Belgium on debut.

The 2010 world champions face another tricky non-competitive task on the road this week against an England side who boast an identical record in qualification, having dispatched Scotland 3-0 on Friday.

Spain were 4-0 winners over Macedonia 24 hours later and Lopetegui is relishing a match against a nation whose football culture fascinates him, despite their recent woeful form at major tournaments.

“It’s an honour for us to come here and play at Wembley. It’s always a difficult place to come and we’re up against an opponent that is in good form with a good squad of players,” he said.

“Wembley is a marvellous environment in which to play a game of football

“There’s lots and lots of things I like about English football. It’s the whole world of English football that I’m fascinated by – the supporters the stadiums, the atmosphere.

“There are also some fantastic players. Everything around English football is very professional. There are some superb players. I am a big fan of English football.”

Gareth Southgate will be in the opposite dugout to Lopetegui, having also progressed from leading his country’s Under-21 side.

The match is the last of four in an interim tenure for Southgate, who stepped in at short notice after predecessor Sam Allardyce was brought down by a newspaper sting.

Southgate is the favourite to take on the post full-time and Lopetegui has been impressed by his counterpart’s work to date.

“He is improving the English team,” he said. “They are showing different skills in the offensive phase and I think they are trying to organise their offensive phase, that is my impression.

“You can say that [we have had similar paths]. He has the challenge now, he is doing I think a very good job and I wish him the best.”

Cesar Azpilicueta is set to be one of a number of familiar faces for Premier League followers in the Spain side and the Chelsea defender believes the influx of his countrymen into England’s top flight over recent years can only benefit Lopetegui’s team.

“When I first came over there weren’t so many, generally Spanish players didn’t travel abroad quite so much,” he said, speaking alongside his coach at a pre-match news conference.

 “I think when English clubs sign a Spanish player they will be looking to enhance the quality within the squad. Spanish football offers a slightly different philosophy and has a slightly different style.

“Also, for us Spanish players we can only improve by playing in other countries and that is certainly the case in England.”

Mon 14 Nov, 2016
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