Spain and Uruguay head to Qatar - live on ESPN UK at 18.00 GMT - for a friendly match at Khalifa International Stadium ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
When wondering why teams are keen to travel to the Middle East for a friendly at this time of year, it is prudent to consider the fact that the Qatari government paid the Spanish football federation close to US$4 million to switch the friendly from Portugal to Doha. The reigning world and European champions are a hot ticket and should field a strong side, despite the withdrawal of Xavi and Xabi Alonso from the squad.
"We could have experimented more since it is a friendly, but we have two tough games against Finland and France that will mark the future of our World Cup qualifying, so we have to consider this a preparation match against a tough rival," manager Vicente del Bosque said ahead of the game. Opting to leave out Chelsea striker Fernando Torres and in-form Swansea forward Michu, Del Bosque's side are still bursting with talent and will likely be led by the returning Carles Puyol, who is set to win his 100th cap.
Uruguay, however, are a long way away from the collective that impressed so much at the 2010 World Cup. They have lost three of their past four World Cup qualifiers, drawing the other at home to Ecuador, and have not kept a clean sheet in their past five. Indeed, some heavy defeats to Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia have seen Oscar Tabarez come under pressure to turn the results around.
Against high-profile opposition, there are places in the friendly squad for powerful strike trio Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who should all look to make a mark against a miserly Spanish defence and may well start together for the first time since the 3-0 qualifying defeat to Argentina last October.
Suarez, in particular, will be well motivated as he needs just four more strikes to overtake Forlan’s record of 33 goals and become Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer. One feels, however, that Tabarez will need more than the Liverpool striker to overcome the best team in the world.
Spain player to watch: David Villa According to Del Bosque: "No player has contributed as much to the current Spanish national team." But Villa has not found playing time easy to come by among the star-studded Barcelona line-up and has only started seven games in La Liga this season. At his best, Villa is one of the most potent strikers in the game and his pace, skill and deadly finishing ensure that he is treated with respect wherever he goes. With Fernando Torres and Michu left out of the squad, Villa continues to show his importance for Spain and will be keen to prove he is worth more than a bench role in his advancing years.
Uruguay player to watch: Edinson Cavani. The Napoli striker is one of the most coveted players in Europe and, after recently signing a new contract, would cost in excess of €60 million should a suitor come calling. Cavani was quoted recently as saying that the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid were “attractive” and he will get the chance to see how many of their players operate up close and personal on the Doha pitch.
Key battle: Andres Iniesta v Walter Gargano. One of the world’s best will be keen to impress on the international stage once more as the likes of Isco, Juan Mata and others from Spain’s ever-churning talent pool attempt to oust him from the first-team. Iniesta’s smooth, classy passing and incredible vision can unlock defences at will and he needs to be watched carefully by defensive midfielder Gargano. The Uruguayan has started to show signs at Inter Milan of late that he might be getting back to his best form, but on Wednesday he faces one of the toughest challenges in world football.
Trivia: Spain will play Uruguay again in the group phase of the Confederations Cup in Brazil this summer.
Stats: Uruguay have never beaten Spain in five meetings, with three draws and two wins to the current European and world champions.
Odds: Spain (1.66), Uruguay (5.75) and the draw (4.00) are on offer, with a 3-0 win to Spain coming in at 11.00.
Prediction: Even in unfamiliar surroundings, Spain are formidable opponents and should be capable of picking up a win.