Spaniards exclude prying eyes

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables and his England players will be spending plenty of time in the television lounge at their hotel before tomorrow's European Championship quarter-final at Wembley - watching video recordings of their opponents, Spain.

No one was able to pick up any tips yesterday as the Spaniards were put through their paces in secret by their coach, Javier Clemente, at Elland Road, where his side sealed qualification for the last eight with a 2- 1 victory over Romania on Tuesday. Spain had followed England's lead by barring the media, photographers and the public.

Back at Bisham Abbey, it was business as usual for Venables and his players, two days after their thrilling 4-1 win over the Netherlands. The England coach, who had a spell in Spain in charge of Barcelona, knows that Clemente's team are likely to pose different problems to the Dutch.

While they committed themselves forward, playing three up front and as many attacking midfielders, Spain, unbeaten since the 1994 World Cup finals, are likely to be far more cautious, sucking England in and then looking to hit them on the break. Venables is likely to stress the need for patience despite the demands of a passionate sell-out Wembley crowd, who will be looking for a repeat of England's form against the Dutch.

The England coach's plans have been disrupted by the need to change his starting side for the first time in the tournament. While he has switched formations - beginning with four at the back against Switzerland, changing to three for the Scotland match and reverting back to four on Tuesday - the personnel have stayed the same. Now, though, Paul Ince is suspended tomorrow after picking up his second yellow card of Euro 96 against the Dutch.

David Platt, who proved his fitness after a rib injury with a 23-minute appearance as Ince's replacement against the Dutch, is likely to start in place of the Internazionale player.

Spain are unlikely to be caught unawares by England, as several of their squad have close links with Venables. Their goalkeeper and captain, Andoni Zubizarreta, who holds a record 108 caps for his country, was at Barcelona during the Venables era in the mid-1980s. The experienced striker Julio Salinas will also remember Venables, after scoring 20 goals for Barcelona in the 1988/89 season - when his form forced Gary Lineker out on to the right wing prior to his return to England with Tottenham.

Clemente also has connections with England. He marked his debut in charge of the national team with a 1-0 win over Graham Taylor's side in Santander in September 1992. In the 1980s, when Clemente was coaching Athletic Bilbao, he travelled to Suffolk to learn from the Ipswich Town manager, Bobby Robson.

"He [Clemente] was very enthusiastic about the game and wanted to learn as much as he could about the English style of play," Robson recalled. While Venables was with Barcelona, Clemente was in charge of the Catalan city's other club, Espanol, taking them to the 1988 Uefa Cup final. He took over as national team coach in 1992.

The Spanish "armada" was on the move yesterday, checking out of the Oulton Hall Hotel, near Leeds, and moving in to the Sopwell House Hotel, near St Albans - which was the Dutch base during their group fixtures.

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP Quarter-finals: Tomorrow: England v Spain (3.0) (at Wembley); France v Netherlands (6.30) (at Anfield). Sunday: Germany v Croatia (3.0) (at Old Trafford); Portugal v Czech Republic (6.30) (at Villa Park).