Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque has indicated he sees England as a re-emerging force in the world game under Italian disciplinarian Fabio Capello, who will seek to confirm that view in Wednesday's friendly in Seville.
"Both sides are unbeaten in their World Cup qualifying programme to date," the former Real Madrid coach said. "They may be without one or two players but they have some youngsters coming along well and that makes for an excellent match in prospect," Del Bosque told reporters Tuesday, in dismissing the absences of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard as ones which would not make life easier for Spain.
Spain, the reigning European champions, have, since their triumph at UEFA EURO 2008, cast off decades of under-achievement - the trophy was their first since the 1964 tournament- and in Liverpool striker Fernando Torres possess one of the continent's most feared centre forwards.
Torres' inside knowledge of Tuesday's opponents excites Del Bosque, who nonetheless recognises the player's club will be fretting at the risk of possible fatigue to their player, vital to their Premier League and UEFA Champions League hopes but who has already suffered fitness problems this season.
"I have always had good contacts with him (Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez) and I think relations have developed correctly," insisted Del Bosque. "I talked to him last Friday. We talked about the players' form but in a cordial manner and without any problem. Torres is fine and we are going to count on him."
The former Real coach meanwhile noted England's effectiveness at set pieces - the Spaniards know all about David Beckham's delivery in particular that score after his La Liga-winning exploits with Real in 2007 under Capello's tutelage - even before his renaissance at AC Milan. If Beckham appears Wednesday at Seville's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium he will win his 108th cap to equal Bobby Moore's record for an outfield England player.
The match will be a useful yardstick for Capello's side to see how much progress has been made since the failure to qualify for EURO 2008 as they go up against continental champions who Wednesday will feature 17 of the 23-man squad victorious last summer. With some 4,000 visiting fans set to make the trip local police have classed the match a "high-risk" affair with some two dozen officers coming over from England to aid 500 Spanish counterparts with security.
The move is a precaution after alleged racial chanting by home fans directed at Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Shaun Wright-Phillips marred a 2004 friendly played at the Bernabeu Stadium. Those incidents prompted an FA request for Wednesday's game to be played away from the capital.
Del Bosque insisted earlier that while "isolated pockets" of fans prone to racist outbursts might exist "Spain is absolutely not xenophobic." Spain won the last encounter between the sides in a Manchester friendly two years ago.