Stick with the winning formula or freshen up the legs for a physical test?
These are the questions that Graham Arnold will have to ask himself when selecting the Olyroos’ XI to play in their crucial Olympic match against the technically gifted Spaniards.
After employing a 4-3-3 shape in their historic 2-0 victory against Argentina, will Arnold choose to stick with an attacking system or play more conservative against a team that will likely possess more of the ball?
Over his managerial career, Arnold has demonstrated a willingness to continue playing his way of football regardless of the opposition, so expect the Olyroos to come out firing against their Spanish opponents whose squad is valued at just under $900m according to leading football site Transfermarkt.
Goalkeeper: THOMAS GLOVER (Melbourne City)
The 6 foot 3 inch stopper played an important role in Australia’s victory against Argentina making four saves, including a wonderful save late in the game to deny a curling effort from CSKA Moscow striker Adolfo Gaich.
The former Tottenham Hotspur keeper fills the goal and instils great confidence into his back four.
Right Back: NATHANIEL ATKINSON (Melbourne City)
The marauding full-back is almost guaranteed to retain his place in the starting XI following a superb performance against Los Pumas where he was brilliant both in attack and defence.
Arnold may be tempted to shift Thomas Deng to right full-back in an attempt to accommodate an extra centre-half to limit Spain’s attacking prowess.
However, the Australian manager will likely acknowledge the importance of maintaining a consistent back four and goalkeeper and thus Atkinson should keep his spot in the XI.
Left Centre-Back: HARRY SOUTTAR (Stoke City)
The towering defender played a key role in scoring the Olyroos’ first goal against Argentina with a brilliant diagonal through ball to Joel King. Souttar is nailed on to start and will look to provide a threat from attacking set-pieces against a Spanish team that is comparatively small in height.
The Stoke City defender will aim to string a sequence of solid performances to guarantee a move to the Premier League once finished at the Olympics.
Right Centre-Back: THOMAS DENG (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Composed on the ball and ruthless in defence, Deng led by example against Argentina and earned Man of the Match honours for his efforts.
The former Melbourne Victory man will look to use his pace and intelligence to deny the likes of RB Leipzig’s Dani Olmo and Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal from creating opportunities for the Spaniards.
Left Back: JOEL KING (Sydney FC)
The reigning A-League Young Player of the Year proved his doubters wrong on Thursday night as he played a wonderful cross into the box to set up Lachie Wales with the Olyroos’ first goal.
King was also brilliant in 1v1 defending scenarios with creative winger Carlos Valenzuela struggling to bypass the Sydney-based youngster.
King will be a constant in Arnold’s XI due to his immense stamina and willingness to continue running down the left flank.
Defensive Midfield: DENIS GENREAU (Macarthur FC)
Arnold may be tempted to shift Genreau out of the XI for a more attacking player like Caleb Watts but the Melbourne City academy graduate played an instrumental role at the base of the Olyroos’ midfield against Argentina.
Genreau will look to be tough in the tackle and limit the likes of Mikel Merino and Barcelona’s superstar youngster Pedri from getting on the ball and dictating the play.
Central Midfield: CONNOR METCALFE (Melbourne City)
The mercurial midfielder produced a crucial midfield performance on Thursday, recording five interceptions and four tackles as he nullified the Argentine threat and continuously won the ball in midfield.
Metcalfe was calm on the ball and threaded some wonderful through balls as he demonstrated his full skillset.
Should the Olyroos have any chance of winning against Spain, Metcalfe will be at the heart of their performance.
Central Midfield: RILEY MCGREE (Birmingham City)
McGree has greatly matured as a player and is now more than capable of playing a robust role in a midfield three.
The former A-League superstar is box-office material and almost scored two mystifying goals against Argentina to complement his defensive work-rate in midfield.
McGree could potentially be shifted to the right wing should Arnold wish to accommodate Southampton maestro Caleb Watts into the XI.
Left Winger: MARCO TILIO (Melbourne City)
Perhaps the sole potential change to the XI will be Tilio replacing Daniel Arzani’s spot on the left of the attack.
Tilio scored a Messi-esque goal off the bench and provided a nice spark against Argentina. The fast winger could find space in a telephone box and has fantastic decision-making and goal sense in the final third.
Tilio may represent the preferred option for Arnold as he seeks to prioritise ball retention over flair against a Spain side that will be dominant in possession.
Right Winger: LACHIE WALES (Western United)
The much-maligned boy from Terrigal surprised many Australians with a brilliantly taken tap-in for the Olyroos’ first goal against Argentina.
Wales will likely start on the right of the attack for his pace in behind and threat at bypassing Spain’s high line.
Arnold may equally opt for Western United team-mate Dylan Pierias for his lightning pace but Wales is more likely to retain his place in the XI after a solid showing against Los Pumas.
Centre-Forward: MITCHELL DUKE (Free Agent)
The squad’s sole overage player was at his scintillating best on Thursday night as he displayed a multi-faceted performance where he combined defensive work-rate, vision and aerial ability.
Duke recorded two assists including a smart pass for Marco Tilio’s silencing goal.
Perhaps the only thing missing from Duke’s performance against the South American powerhouses was a goal for himself as he narrowly missed in added time after an inch-perfect cross from Keanu Baccus. Duke is nailed on to start as the Olyroos’ number 9.