Tuesday 20 February 2018

Del Bosque under pressure to rest Spanish big guns for England clash

Pete Jenson

A club versus country dispute and Barcelona's marathon fixture list could lighten England's load at Wembley on Saturday.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque named his squad to face Fabio Capello's men yesterday and it was enough to strike fear into the most optimistic England fan, but the World Cup-winning coach is under pressure to rest Barcelona and Real Madrid players.

Barcelona play a King's Cup fixture tomorrow and the rules oblige them to pick at least seven first-team players to start and to have a further three on the bench. The game has been brought forward because of Barcelona's involvement in the World Club Cup.

Pep Guardiola is already without South American internationals Lionel Messi, Adriano, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano as well as Thiago Alcantara and Isaac Cuenca, who are on Spain U-21 duty.

As a result, he will be forced to field Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and David Villa a day before they travel to Madrid to join up with their international team-mates.


Real Madrid have no such commitment, but Jose Mourinho has already complained about players being whisked off to play in Spain's friendly in Costa Rica next week and, with the season's first El Clasico looming large on the horizon, there will be pressure on Del Bosque not to load his team with Real Madrid players either.

However, Del Bosque defended the international commitments, saying: "We schedule the friendlies in the best interests of the national team. We have played only five games since the summer and no player has played a full 90 minutes."

Despite standing up to Spain's big two, Del Bosque is expected to lean heavily on Premier League players on Saturday, which will still leave England having to face the likes of David Silva and Juan Mata but spare them a full 90 minutes against the likes of Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi.

Fabio Capello has kept his promise to give some experience to younger players. Eleven of Capello's 25-man squad have six caps or fewer, including four who have yet to make their debuts, with Daniel Sturridge and Jack Rodwell called up for the first time.

"He's an interesting player and a player who scores goals," said Capello of 22-year-old Sturridge, who has excelled for Chelsea this term after a successful loan spell with Bolton. "I saw him play right-wing, left-wing and centre-forward. He has improved a lot." (© Independent News Service)

Spain (squad v England) -- Casillas, Reina, Valdes, Ramos, Arbeloa, Puyol, Pique, Alba, Albiol, Monreal, Xavi, Alonso, Busquets, Cazorla, Martinez, Fabregas, Iniesta, Villa, Silva, Torres, Llorente, Mata, Navas.

Irish Independent

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