Slovakia will seek to build on a famous opening-game triumph over Poland at Euro 2020 when they face Sweden on Friday.

Stefan Tarkovic's side sit proudly atop Group E after a 2-1 win in St Petersburg on Monday, with the in-form Milan Skriniar's goal decisive.

It represented just a second victory at a European Championship for Slovakia, who are enjoying a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

After those joyous celebrations at the start of the week, Tarkovic has had to contend with the unwelcome distraction of two coronavirus positives within the camp.

Defender Denis Vavro and a member of staff are the duo affected but Tarkovic said UEFA protocols had been followed "to avoid the spread of the infection", with the pair now in self-isolation.

A win would send Slovakia through to the knockout phase but they face a Sweden side who secured a surprise result of their own in holding Spain to a goalless draw.

Janne Andersson's men showed practically no desire to attack as Spain dominated the ball, enjoying 85 per cent of possession.

Sweden clocked up just 162 passes against Spain's 917, while forward Marcus Berg exited proceedings after 69 minutes having touched the ball only 17 times.

The dynamics in this game, which will again be in St Petersburg, are altogether different and the Swedes will be under pressure to get on the front foot.

The omens do not bode well for Sweden, who have lost their second match of the group stage at each of the last four major tournaments.

However, those games were against Spain, England, Italy and Germany.

It was honours even the last time these two sides met as they shared a 1-1 draw back in 2018.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sweden – Alexander Isak

Despite Sweden being so thoroughly outplayed by Spain, Isak did manage to make a positive impression and might, in fact, have scored. His shot bounced off the knee of Marcos Llorente and struck the post, while the Real Sociedad forward laid on a glorious chance for Berg, who fluffed his lines.

Slovakia – Milan Skriniar

Inter centre-half Skriniar might once have been considered an unlikely match-winner, but after failing to score in his first 37 international outings he now has three goals in his past four appearances for Slovakia. Skriniar also led the way for his team in touches (69), clearances (10) and blocks (two), as well as winning five duels against Poland.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first meeting between Sweden and Slovakia at a major tournament (European Championship and World Cup).

- Slovakia have never beaten Sweden in their five previous encounters (D3 L2), with their last four games never producing more than two goals.

- Slovakia have won two games in total at the Euros – one against Russia in 2016 and another against Poland last time out, which took place in Russia; their match against Sweden will also be held in Russia.

- Following their 2-1 victory against Poland on MD1, Slovakia will be looking to win their opening two games at a major tournament for the first time.

- Sweden have failed to score in three consecutive matches at the Euros – their final two group games in 2016 and their opening match against Spain last time out. They had only failed to score three times in their previous 18 games at the tournament before this.

Sergio Ramos is leaving Real Madrid, the Spanish giants confirming on Wednesday that the 35-year-old defender will hold a farewell event on Thursday.

Ramos joined Madrid from Sevilla in 2005 and went on to cement his name as a legend at Santiago Bernabeu.

During his 16-year stint with Los Blancos, Ramos has won LaLiga five times and helped Madrid to four Champions League titles.

Diminishing returns last season, mainly due to injury, mean he does not quite go out on a high, but he will nevertheless be considered as one of the club greats.

BRILLIANT IN BOTH BOXES

It is not often that a defender is known for his goalscoring exploits, but Ramos certainly bucks the trend.

Indeed, he is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five European leagues since the turn of the century.

His total of 101 goals is split between Sevilla and Madrid, though he only scored three times for the Andalusian club before his move to the Spanish capital.

In fact, his tally of 98 Madrid goals mean that, since the turn of the century, the only players to outscore Ramos – who also takes a mean penalty – for the club in all competitions are Cristiano Ronaldo (450), Karim Benzema (279), Raul (225), Gonzalo Higuain (119) and Gareth Bale (105).

Ramos first hit double figures for goals in the 2016-17 campaign, scoring 10 times. He improved on that in 2018-19, registering 11, before netting 13 times in his penultimate season with Madrid, albeit seven of those came from the penalty spot.

Defending, of course, still comes first. Ramos played in 206 games in which Madrid kept a clean sheet. It is a figure beaten for the club only by Iker Casillas (243) since the 1998-99 campaign.

A FULL-BLOODED WINNER

There are no half-measures when it comes to Ramos, who tallied up 214 yellow cards in 659 Madrid appearances, seeing red on 25 occasions. Remarkably, four of those dismissals came in his first season at Madrid.

Since making his Sevilla debut, Ramos has 452 wins under his belt, with 430 coming during his time with Los Blancos.

His trophy count speaks for itself, and his mastery of the dark arts – as Liverpool fans will cite from the 2018 Champions League final – is second to none.

A consistently reliable figure in Madrid's team, he played over 40 times in all but two of the last 16 seasons. His lowest total of appearances came last term, when he managed just 21 games, all of which were starts.

He leaves Madrid as the player with the fourth-most LaLiga appearances for the club, with 469, while only Paco Gento (23) has won more than Ramos' haul of 22 trophies.

SPAIN SNUB

Luis Enrique explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included in Spain's squad for Euro 2020, despite the former Barcelona boss picking only 24 players, and that was before a coronavirus outbreak affected their preparation. 

Knee, calf and hamstring complaints limited the World Cup winner's involvement in 2021, but he had also already missed more matches than Madrid would have liked in the first half of the campaign.

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Had Ramos been able to get on the pitch more often, his performances would surely have seen him included by Luis Enrique, as he was second behind only Diego Llorente (of defenders called up) in terms of interceptions and recoveries in 2020-21.

However, he could not prove his fitness, and his last appearance in a Madrid shirt will ultimately be the disappointing Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea last month.

Now, the onus will be on Carlo Ancelotti to restructure Madrid's defence without the presence of a club stalwart.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique and his players leapt to the defence of Alvaro Morata after he was booed in their frustrating 0-0 draw with Sweden at Euro 2020.

Morata squandered Spain's best chance of their Euro 2020 Group E opener when he fired wide with just Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen to beat on Monday.

Spain had dominated the match in Seville as they made 917 passes and enjoyed 85 possession, but lacked a cutting edge in attack.

Morata was even subjected to boos and whistles by a section of Spain supporters, having failed to register any of his three attempts on target before he was substituted in the 66th minute.

"He has the personality to endure it and I would more like [him] to be applauded," Luis Enrique told a post-match media conference. 

"Morata is a great player who does things well in attack and defence.

"I have heard the whistles for Morata but then he was applauded off. He does a lot for the team and he is used to these situations so I do not think it will affect him."

Spain midfielders Marcos Llorente and Pedri also backed Morata, who has not scored in his last four international matches, to come good.

"Today he was not lucky in the face of goal, but he will be," Llorente said.

"I don't think the whistles are good. Anyone who was inside would like to be supported and applauded.

"We've got two group games left and the support of our fans is a great help."

Pedri added: "We can all fail, we all do. He [Morata] works a lot for the team and that can be seen on the field. He needs support. I tell people to keep trusting us, we are a great team.

"We created so many chances that I'm sure the goals are coming. I know there will now be good video analysis to see why it is we didn't score."

Luis Enrique felt the playing surface at Seville's La Cartuja stadium hampered his players in front of goal.

He said: "What we try to do is to generate scoring chances, the field was not helping much. If you haven't noticed the players have complained. 

"We have generated chances, we haven't scored them."

Spain began Euro 2020 with a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sweden as their lack of cutting edge in attack was borne out.

Luis Enrique's side enjoyed long spells of possession - a staggering 85% - and had the best of the chances, in the Group E encounter in Seville, but could not find a winner.

Alvaro Morata was guilty of squandering Spain's best opportunity when he fired wide with just Robin Olsen to beat.

An obdurate Sweden side executed their tactical plan to stifle Spain superbly and did threaten at the other end with Alexander Isak hitting the post.

Spain initially looked to open the game from wide areas as they clocked up the passes with Sweden completing just two passes in the opposition half inside the opening 20 minutes.

A teasing cross from Koke brought Spain their first real chance as he picked out Dani Olmo only for a superb diving one-handed save from Olsen to keep out his close-range header.

Koke whistled a shot just past the post with an angled effort struck with the outside of his boot, but should have done better on the half hour when he lifted a shot over the bar from a good position.

A mistake by Marcus Danielson let Morata burst through on goal, but with Olsen rushing off his line the striker curled his shot wide while Olmo went close again from long range.

Sweden flickered into life moments before half-time when a rare foray forward saw Isak's shot bounce off the knee of Marcos Llorente and strike the post.

Spain's play lacked intensity in the second half and some trickery by the impressive Isak created a golden opportunity for Marcus Berg on the hour, but he fluffed his shot from close range.

Olmo saw a shot blocked by Danielson, but Spain were unable to rediscover their tempo and failed to really test Olsen as the game meandered to a stalemate.

Gerard Moreno could have won it with a header from fellow substitute Pablo Sarabia's clever cross inside the six-yard box, but Olsen saved instinctively with his legs. 

Then at the death Sarabia failed to get a clean touch on a dangerous ball into the box with the goal at his mercy. 

Luis Enrique has insisted Spain do not have a lack of leaders in their group in the absence of captain Sergio Busquets.

Barcelona midfielder Busquets will miss Spain's opening Euro 2020 match against Sweden in Seville on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 32-year-old is one of the key figureheads in La Roja's squad, which is the youngest in the tournament, but Luis Enrique is confident others – including himself – can fill the void.

"We do not lack leadership," he said at a news conference ahead of Spain's Group E opener against Sweden on Monday. 

"The 23 others are going to lead because they are the ones that make the decisions on the pitch. 

"I'm going to lead from the sidelines, too, as all coaches do. If a coach doesn't lead, that's a bad sign.

"But in this national team everyone has to lead on the field. They have to carry this out. Our strength is the group and we are prepared."

Spain have won only one of their last five opening matches at a major tournament, beating the Czech Republic 1-0 at Euro 2016.

La Roja's last game at a tournament was their last-16 defeat to Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup, but Luis Enrique is optimistic of success at Euro 2020. 

"I'm not worried – we are ready," he said. "Until the contrary is proven, I'll continue to think we can compete at the highest level.

"What I'm telling you is not a lie; I really believe it. I'm still confident.

"Our match plan will always be the same. We have clear objectives in attack, to generate as many chances as possible and to dominate the rival.

"When defending we must press as high as possible to win the ball back. I hope that come tomorrow night we can find a good rhythm and maintain our levels."

Sweden are taking part in their seventh European Championship finals and enter the tournament on a five-match winning run that has seen them keep four clean sheets.

Luis Enrique is expecting a tough opening test at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja before meetings with Slovakia and Poland.

"Sweden are a team that play direct. They have strong, quality players, even if they are going to be without Dejan Kulusevski," the Spain head coach said.

"We are going to try to focus on our strongest areas.

"The first game helps set the pulse for the competition. It is not easy for many reasons, but we are hopeful we can be at our best."

There are question marks over who will start in goal for Spain, though Luis Enrique is not giving anything away in terms of team selection on the eve of the match.

"David de Gea, Robert Sanchez or Unai Simon – one of those will play," he said.

Monday's meeting will be the fourth between the two sides at a major tournament, with Spain winning twice – most recently at Euro 2008 – and Sweden winning the other.

Thiago Alcantara says a Spain squad mixing youth and experience are desperate for Euro 2020 to begin after disrupted preparations for the tournament.

Luis Enrique's side get their campaign underway on Monday when they take on Sweden at La Cartuja in Seville.

Their planning for finals was thrown into disarray when Sergio Busquets tested positive for coronavirus last week, which forced the senior squad into isolation amid fears of an outbreak.

Diego Llorente returned test results later confirmed to be a false positive, while the Under-21 squad were used for the friendly match with Lithuania on Tuesday.

The senior players are due to be given COVID-19 vaccination jabs on Friday and no further positive cases have been identified, meaning Luis Enrique should have a strong group available for selection against Sweden.

Liverpool midfielder Thiago accepts the build-up has been far from ideal but is now eager to get the tournament underway.

He told Marca: "Football has changed. Beyond talent, it will be the teams who are best prepared who will compete. We're talking about the best players in Europe at the best tournament.

"We've gotten used to playing under pressure. We're a very young team but used to that level of competition. The youngsters give us veterans a hunger to compete.

"There's another very important thing: we're very invested in what the coach asks of us. That comes from a long time ago, not from now. We're a hard-working team and we're hungry.

"I know [Luis Enrique] from the Barca youth system. He has very clear ideas. He loves the pressure after losing, possession... and winning, which is what we all want.

"The good thing about Luis is that he is always the same. He's no different depending on who he talks to."

Thiago insisted the Spain players coped well with the news of Busquets and that they are far more used to such situations than in the early stages of the pandemic.

"We're used to this situation. It's been a year and a half of living with COVID. We've been accustomed to training individually or collectively, but always with the objective of competing," he said.

"Fear was experienced in the first stage of the pandemic. It was an uncertainty on a global level. We didn't know what was going to happen.

"I was in Germany with my family and yes, there was that feeling of fear. Not here. We have great professionals around us and we comply with all the protocols they ask us to follow."

Spain boss Luis Enrique has assured captain Sergio Busquets he has a major role to play at Euro 2020 once he returns from a COVID-19 absence.

The Barcelona midfielder is said to be well in himself and able to train in isolation despite testing positive for the virus last week.

Busquets will miss Spain's opening game against Sweden in Seville on Monday; however, he may be available for the second group game on June 19, when Poland are the opposition, and there is no prospect of him being cut from Spain's squad.

"I'm going to wait for him. We are all going to wait for him," Luis Enrique said in a news conference on Thursday.

"There is plenty of time for him to come back. He will be certainly on the list.

"What Busquets brings is something impressive as an offensive and defensive midfielder. He is the captain of the national team and one of the team's leaders.

"He benefits from the fact that he was infected so early. We will study each case individually."

Luis Enrique is looking for positives and working on the assumption that Busquets will be available for the rest of Spain's campaign once he has returned to camp.

Amid questions over whether the squad might be vaccinated before their campaign gets under way, Luis Enrique says it would be important to establish certainty around that prospect, particularly given side-effects are so common following jabs.

"As a coach it is something that we are considering. I would like that if it happens, we get vaccinated right now because it would make me angry to be left without a player for it," the Spain head coach added.

"To this day we have no guarantees that the team will be vaccinated.

"On a personal level it is not pleasant to be waiting for a PCR result. We make the players wake up very early so the results arrive as soon as possible. The waiting is not a pleasant situation, but I have experienced much worse."

Luis Enrique had five months away from duties with Spain in 2019, enduring family tragedy in that time as his daughter Xana died from bone cancer.

The COVID-19 situation pales against that personal trauma for the former Barcelona and Real Madrid star, who said: "For me this is child's play compared to some things that I have had to experience."

At the same time, he recognises that on a professional level the pandemic could be disruptive to La Roja over the coming weeks.

"The virus is uncontrollable and despite respecting and enforcing the protocols it sometimes appears. We are not looking for culprits, but solutions," Luis Enrique added.

"I still think without any doubt that Spain are one of the favourites to win the European Championship. We are in that group of six to seven teams that are candidates for the title."

Spain have confirmed no more players nor coaching staff have tested positive for coronavirus after a recent outbreak in their camp.

Defender Diego Llorente tested positive on Tuesday and was put into isolation, two days after Sergio Busquets was confirmed to have contracted the virus.

Spain suspended all training activity and fielded their Under-21s for Tuesday's final pre-Euro 2020 friendly with Lithuania, which they won 4-0 in Leganes.

Luis Enrique has created a parallel training bubble made up of standby players, including Rodrigo Moreno, Pablo Fornals, Carlos Soler, Brais Mendez, Raul Albiol, Kepa Arrizabalaga and 11 of their Under-21s squad.

There had been fears the virus could spiral out of control, but all other members of the squad and coaching staff – plus those in the parallel bubble – returned negative tests on Wednesday.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed the news in a statement on its official website, with further tests to be conducted in the coming days.

Spain begin their Euro 2020 campaign against Sweden in Seville next Monday, before facing Poland and Slovakia in their other two Group E fixtures.

Spain have retained 11 of their Under-21 players who featured against Lithuania on Tuesday, with Luis Enrique's Euro 2020 squad having been hit by coronavirus cases.

La Roja's preparations for the tournament were hit by Sergio Busquets' positive coronavirus test on Sunday, with the entire team forced into isolation.

Tuesday's friendly against Lithuania also had to be re-arranged, with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) promoting their entire Under-21s side, though La Rojita took their opportunity to impress.

Hugo Guillamon, Brahim Diaz, Juan Miranda and Javi Puado scored in a 4-0 win, but it was confirmed after the match that another member of the senior squad – Leeds United centre-back Diego Llorente – had tested positive for COVID-19.

Luis Enrique had already created a parallel training bubble with standby players, including Rodrigo Moreno, Pablo Fornals, Carlos Soler, Brais Mendez, Raul Albiol and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

With Spain starting their campaign against Sweden on Monday, 11 of the players who played against Lithuania have now been added to the separate training bubble.

Alvaro Fernandez, Oscar Mingueza, Marc Cucurella, Miranda, Gonzalo Villar, Alejandro Pozo, Diaz, Martin Zubimendi, Yeremy Pino, Puado and Bryan Gil – the only player to feature on Tuesday having represented the senior side in the past – are the youngsters selected by Luis Enrique, who only named 24 players in his initial squad.

Luis Enrique issued a strong defence of Alvaro Morata after a 0-0 draw with Portugal that saw debutant Aymeric Laporte impress the Spain boss ahead of Euro 2020.

The 2012 winners were unable to find a way through against the reigning champions as the two neighbouring nations met in a friendly fixture as part of their preparations for this year's tournament.

However, Spain saw Morata fail to convert a glorious late chance at the Wanda Metropolitano, his attempt when clean through hitting the crossbar.

It was one of four shots by the striker during proceedings, of which only one ended up on target. Still, he did make two key passes and, despite the crowd getting on his case following the miss, his head coach was more than happy with what he saw.

"I am not worried about it," Luis Enrique said when asked about the 28-year-old.

"The last play saw Morata kill himself to pressure. He has been a constant nuisance for the Portuguese, doing an incredible job, and in the 90th minute he is able to make a 40-metre action, fool the goalkeeper and then has bad luck when hitting the crossbar. 

"I think that's something to be applauded. I have seen him very well in terms of his morale, he is already used to it [the criticism]."

There were also whistles at full-time after the hosts failed to capitalise on their dominance. Spain had 65.7 per cent of possession which led to 10 attempts, albeit Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio only had to make two saves.

"I haven't seen anyone whistle at me. I do not care. Yes, it bothers me that it is done to the players," a defiant Luis Enrique said.

"Everyone can do what they want, but I just found out now. I understand my role, I know what it means to be a public figure.

"But people praise me and even blow me kisses, so I feel loved and in Madrid I am delighted."

Laporte was clearly one of the positives to come out of the fixture for Spain, the Manchester City defender combining with fellow centre-back Pau Torres to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.

After Portugal had just one on-target attempt during the contest, Luis Enrique said: "I have seen it as expected, very good. It is not common and normal to have two left-sided central defenders, but I have played many years with right central defenders and it does not surprise anyone.

"It is difficult to find two left-sided central defenders of this quality. They have been exceptional, dominating in the air, in passing the ball, putting pressure on the Portuguese forwards. They were outstanding."

Sergio Ramos accepts his omission from Spain's Euro 2020 squad is for the best as he prepares for a close season of "rest".

Real Madrid captain Ramos, Spain's most-capped player with 180, was the standout absentee when Luis Enrique named a 24-man party for the tournament, which begins next month.

The 35-year-old struggled with injury problems throughout 2020-21 and was restricted to 21 appearances for Madrid across all competitions, with only one of those coming since the end of March

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique's decision not to select Ramos caused surprise on Monday, particularly as he did not fill the full allocation of 26 players allowed in expanded Euro 2020 squads, nor find a spot for any other Real Madrid players.

But while there was a degree of shock, especially from Madrid fans, Ramos concedes it was probably the best decision for everyone.

"After a tough few months and a strange season unlike anything I have experienced in my career comes the Euros," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

"I have fought and worked every day, in body and soul, to be able to reach 100 per cent for Real Madrid and the national team but things don't always work out the way we'd like.

"It pains me not to have been able to help my team more and not to play for Spain but, in this case, the best thing to do is rest, fully recover and come back next year like we've always done. It hurts not to represent your country, but I have to be honest and sincere.

"I wish all my teammates the very best of luck and I hope we have a great Euros. I'll be another fan cheering on from home. A big shout to everyone and 'Viva Espana', and 'Hala Madrid' always!"

Either way, Luis Enrique's decision looks set to come under significant scrutiny for a while.

The former Barcelona coach explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included.

Yet, the Madrid defender has actually played more club minutes in that time (395) than Eric Garcia (360) – who in this squad – though the latter was left out of the Manchester City team due to Pep Guardiola preferring alternative options, rather than a patchy fitness record.

By the closing round of LaLiga fixtures on Saturday, which Ramos watched from the bench as Madrid lost their title, the 35-year-old had been absent for significantly more matches (31) for the side this season than he had played (21).

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Ramos was still able to play his part in seven clean sheets, more than the six Madrid managed with their captain on the field in 2016-17 when he appeared 44 times.

Ramos seemingly plans to keep going on the international stage and with good reason – he is just four caps behind the all-time international caps record in world football, which is held by Egypt great Ahmed Hassan.

Nevertheless, Ramos does have competition from Kuwait's Bade Al-Mutawa, whose last cap in March put him on 181.

Sergio Ramos has been left out of the Spain squad in perhaps the biggest coaching call heading into Euro 2020.

There have been returns for big names elsewhere – Karim Benzema for France, and Thomas Muller with Germany – but Luis Enrique has not selected his captain.

"Any decision I made about Sergio Ramos would have been controversial," the coach acknowledged. "I know where I am and accept there will be media noise."

But was it the right decision? We break down the Opta data to look at the reasons Ramos did not make the cut.
 

MAIN MAN MISSING FOR MADRID

Luis Enrique explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included.

The Madrid defender has actually played more club minutes in that time (395) than Eric Garcia (360) – who was selected – but the latter was left out of the Manchester City team due to Pep Guardiola preferring alternative options, rather than a patchy fitness record.

Garcia also started all three matches for Spain, playing 266 minutes to Ramos' 50, in March.

Knee, calf and hamstring complaints have limited Ramos' involvement in 2021, but he had also already missed more matches than Madrid would have liked in the first half of the campaign.

By the closing round of LaLiga fixtures on Saturday, which Ramos watched from the bench as Madrid lost their title, the 35-year-old had been absent for significantly more matches (31) for the side this season than he had played (21).

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Ramos was still able to play his part in seven clean sheets, more than the six Madrid managed with their captain on the field in 2016-17 when he appeared 44 times.

His 2020-21 win rate of 62 per cent was a marginal improvement on the previous campaign, too.
 

BLEND OF BATTLER AND BALL PLAYER

Had Ramos been able to get on the pitch more often, his performances would surely have seen him included by Luis Enrique.

Among Ramos and the five centre-back options named in the squad – Diego Llorente, Pau Torres, Aymeric Laporte, Cesar Azpilicueta and Garcia – the snubbed skipper ranked fourth of the six for tackles (0.9) and tackles won (0.7) per 90 minutes this season.

Ramos was second behind only Llorente (1.5) for interceptions (1.4) and also trailed just the Leeds United man (7.4) in recoveries (5.6).

The World Cup winner was bottom of the pile in blocks (0.3) but third for clearances (2.6), holding his own in the majority of defensive categories.

Llorente (10.4 and 6.0) and Azpilicueta (9.5 and 5.3) led Ramos in duels (7.0) and duels won (4.1), although Laporte (4) joined that duo in contesting more aerial duels than the former Sevilla man (3.8). Ramos (2.4) won more of these battles per 90 than Azpilicueta (2.2), however.

It might come as no surprise that Manchester City pair Garcia (90.1 and 85.5) and Laporte (88.1 and 80.6) top the charts in passes and successful passes, but Ramos (78.5 and 72.1) is third. He is fourth for touches (88.3), too.

Ramos' numbers are competitive in both natural defensive metrics and in ball playing, whereas the others in the squad specialise in one or the other.

Luis Enrique will feel confident he has a wide array of options, but it is clear to see why a conversation with Ramos was "difficult and tough", even if the player later posted on Twitter "the best thing to do is rest, fully recover and come back next year".

The coach and the rest of Spain must hope this is not a costly call.

Luis Enrique believes his decision to omit Sergio Ramos from Spain's Euro 2020 squad is in the best interest of the national team.

Real Madrid captain Ramos, the all-time record international appearance holder with 180, was the standout absentee when Luis Enrique named a 24-man party for the tournament, which begins next month.

The 35-year-old struggled with injury problems throughout 2020-21 and was restricted to 21 appearances for Madrid across all competitions.

However, Luis Enrique's decision not to select Ramos caused surprise on Monday – especially as he did not fill the 26 places allowed in expanded Euro 2020 squads, nor find a spot for any Real Madrid players.

"I'd like to send message to Sergio Ramos, our captain, who is not on the list as he has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with the group," Luis Enrique told reporters.

"I told him by phone last night, it was difficult and tough, but it's best for the team.

"My conversation with Sergio yesterday remains private, I won't tell anyone. It was not easy to tell him something which was not positive for him, but I have to make decisions which I and my staff consider is best for the team.

"Any decision I made about Sergio Ramos would have been controversial. I know where I am and accept there will be media noise."

Aymeric Laporte is now expected to play a key role in the heart of Spain's defence, even though he only changed international affiliation from France earlier this month.

Luis Enrique was reported to have lobbied the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to allow for Laporte's inclusion and insists the Manchester City centre-back's availability and Ramos being cast aside were not related.

"The Aymeric Laporte decision is nothing to do with the Ramos situation," he said.

"He is a top player, can help our national team a lot and plays at one of the best clubs in history.

"Please don't mix Ramos not being in the squad with call ups for others. I'd have liked him to be here, to have recovered."

Like his call not to pick Ramos, Luis Enrique neglecting to select 26 players was also one he attributed to nurturing squad unity.

"We are taking 24 players. Most have picked 26, but we just added another striker [to the original limit of 23] as we value a lot the feeling that each player can participate in any moment," he explained.

"Also, it is better to train with this number of players."

The former Barcelona boss failing to pick a single Madrid representative in his party will undoubtedly raise eyebrows, with fitness woes having also compromised Dani Carvajal's prospects.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente is likely to be an option at right-back in Carvajal's absence.

"I cannot pick the squad based on whether some people will be happy or not," Luis Enrique responded when the lack of a Madrid contingent was raised.

"Llorente can play at full-back but we won't forget what he can do in other positions, breaking forward from midfield. I like to have versatile players who can fill different roles."

Spain have been drawn alongside Sweden, Poland and Slovakia in Group E and are aiming to improve upon last-16 exits at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique sees no reason why the glory days of three consecutive major tournament successes between 2008 and 2012 – successes to which Ramos was so pivotal – cannot return.

"Previous Spain teams have won trophies," he added. "I believe we are among the six or eight favourites this year, we will have to show on the pitch what we are capable of.

"Why not aim to win it all?"

Spain captain Sergio Ramos has not been included in Luis Enrique's Euro 2020 squad after an injury-troubled 2020-21 season.

Aymeric Laporte, who only this month switched his allegiance from France to Spain, is among the centre-back options to have been preferred to the veteran.

Ramos was part of the national team that won three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012 and has remained a key man for club and country ever since, breaking Italy great Gianluigi Buffon's all-time international appearances mark of 176 earlier this season.

The 35-year-old has had the armband for Spain under Luis Enrique but played only 50 minutes of the March World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Kosovo before returning to Madrid injured.

Ramos was limited to 21 appearances in all competitions for Madrid this term, missing 31 matches. Zinedine Zidane's side actually conceded more often (1.0 per game vs 0.8) with Ramos in the team.

Remarkably, former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique did not name a single Madrid player in his finals squad.

Right-back Dani Carvajal is injured, leaving Spain light in that area of the pitch where Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente may deputise, while Los Blancos team-mates Marco Asensio and Isco have fallen out of favour.

Madrid's Nacho is another centre-back ignored, with Manchester City pair Laporte and Eric Garcia preferred to he and Ramos despite spending much of the season behind Ruben Dias and John Stones in the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium.

French-born Laporte, City's premier defensive option prior to this season, has made 27 appearances in all competitions for the Premier League champions but is in line for an international debut after this weekend's Champions League final.

Garcia – widely expected to join Barca when his contract expires next month – was limited to just 12 outings and nine starts, with a solitary clean sheet.

Spain squad for Euro 2020:

Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbo), David De Gea (Manchester United), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion); Jose Gaya (Valencia), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea); Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Pedri (Barcelona), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli); Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traore (Wolves), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain)

Spain captain Sergio Ramos has not been included in Luis Enrique's Euro 2020 squad after an injury-troubled 2020-21 season.

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