‘It’s a big rivalry, of course’: Man City midfielder Rodri prepares to rekindle his battles with Scott McTominay when Spain face Scotland on Tuesday, after locking horns with the Man United star in his time at the Etihad
- Spain face Scotland in a Euro qualifying clash at Hampden Park on Tuesday
- Man City’s Rodri spoke highly of midfielders John McGinn and Scott McTominay
- He spoke of a ‘big rivalry’ with United’s McTominay and expected a ‘tough game’
Spain midfielder Rodri is ready to renew his rivalry with Scott McTominay 200 miles north of Manchester as he seeks to prevent Scotland’s big-game players from thriving at Hampden.
A mainstay at City under Pep Guardiola, Rodri regularly locks horns with the English Premier League contingent inside Steve Clarke’s squad and expressed his respect for their collective talent ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifier.
The 26-year-old has directly come up against United counterpart McTominay in derbies over the past few seasons and knows the Scot will be on a high after his two late goals in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Cyprus.
While Spain saw off Norway by the same scoreline to make a successful start under new national coach Luis de la Fuente, Rodri is adamant they must now deliver a peak performance to take command of Group A in Glasgow.
Aston Villa’s John McGinn, scorer of Scotland’s opener at the weekend, is another of his midfield sparring partners from the club game.
Man City midfielder Rodri is set to line up for Spain against Scotland on Tuesday
He spoke of a ‘big rivalry’ with United’s Scott McTominay and expected a ‘tough game’ from the Scots
‘I know them very well, of course,’ said Rodri. ‘They are talented players with a lot of physicality to go box to box.
‘I think they are of massive importance to the national team and, of course, they have experience of playing big games in the Premier League — against us, for example.
‘With Scott, it’s a big rivalry, of course, in the Manchester derby.
‘They are good players, as we have also. We don’t focus too much on individual players, more on the things they do collectively.
‘We also try and focus on ourselves to produce a good performance against one of the best teams in the group.
‘This is going to be an important game. If we can win, we’ll have taken six points from the two best teams in the group — Scotland and Norway — so it’s going to be a very tough game.’
Scotland won their first qualifier 3-0 thanks to goals from John McGinn and McTominay
A powerful presence in the holding midfield role, Rodri expects to encounter a mix of fire and finesse from Clarke’s line-up.
Asked to draw a comparison with the challenge Norway presented in Malaga, he replied: ‘Scotland is a different team to Norway. But Norway have some very good weapons in the sense of being able to counter-attack.
‘Scotland, I think, is going to be the same in that regard. They have quality players who try to play. Also, when you think of Scotland, you think of set-pieces, long balls and second balls because they are always dangerous in those situations.
‘But, of course, they also build up play. They have a keeper who can play out. We’re aware of those things and I know we have to put together a very complete game tomorrow.’
A 50,000 sell-out crowd will fill Hampden on Tuesday, with the vast majority hoping to witness a Scottish success for the ages.
‘It’s the first time I’ve played here,’ continued Rodri. ‘There is always a great environment when you play in the UK — the passion for football is great.
‘It’s going to be very emotional tomorrow and, if the stadium is full, it means it will be good for the players.’
Spain also began their campaign with a win thanks to a brace from 32-year-old debutant Joselu
De la Fuente oversaw European Championship success for Spain’s Under-19 and Under-21 teams before stepping up to the senior squad after Luis Enrique exited on the back of World Cup defeat to Morocco.
The 61-year-old, a La Liga-winning left-back with Athletic Bilbao in the 1980s, has sought to overhaul elements of the squad — including shifting Rodri back to a midfield role following his deployment as a central defender in Qatar.
‘Positionally, he’s excellent and brings a balance to the team, just like (Martin) Zubimendi, the other central midfielder,’ enthused De la Fuente about Rodri.
‘They both dominate the game, follow instructions and distribute the ball well. It’s a key position in the team and I’m lucky to have two of the best central defensive midfielders in the world, in my opinion, in my team.’
Saturday provided a positive start to a new era. Spain took the lead through a first-half strike from Dani Olmo before substitute Joselu marked his international debut at 32 with two goals.
‘Scotland are a very strong rival,’ said De la Fuente. ‘They are very aggressive, very dynamic and can play with a high press.
Spain manager Luis de la Fuente praised Scotland as a ‘very strong rival’ ahead of the game
‘There are some top players from the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal but they are all at a good level. Any of these players could be decisive in the game. I prefer to speak of the team as a whole and the most important thing is the teamwork and the balance that comes from their squad.’
With Swiss referee Sandro Schaerer taking charge at Hampden, De la Fuente also delivered a warning to Barcelona youngster Gavi after a spate of yellow cards for his club.
‘He has incredible drive and motivation and we haven’t seen the best version of him yet,’ added the coach. ‘He certainly has to work on his maturity. Certain behaviours he exhibits don’t benefit him or the team.
‘It’s not good to get an early yellow card, that doesn’t help anyone, but you can’t fault his motivation or drive.’
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