Thursday 18 January 2018

Del Bosque's Copa not flowing over

Paul Logothetis

Spain's disjointed preparations for their defence of the European Championship continue with a friendly against Serbia in St Gallen, Switzerland, today.

The World Cup champions are without their core squad of Barcelona regulars and the Athletic Bilbao players since the Spanish clubs met in the Copa del Rey final last night.

That has led coach Vicente del Bosque to mix established players with a number of uncapped call-ups against Serbia as the veteran coach seeks a solution for the void left by the injuries to striker David Villa and defender Carles Puyol.

Most perplexing about Spain's Euro 2012 preparations is that the Spanish federation did not attempt to move the domestic cup final forward, citing a congested fixture calendar as the problem. The date for the Copa del Rey final was fixed with the idea that either Barcelona or Real Madrid -- or both -- would reach last Saturday's Champions League final, which neither did.

"It's not something I can control, that was an issue for the Spanish federation," Del Bosque said. "It's true it's left us with a different type of situation."

Del Bosque will release his final 23-man squad tomorrow, with Barcelona and Athletic's players joining Spain just before their friendly against South Korea next Wednesday. All players will be available for their final warm-up against China on June 3. Spain open their Euro 2012 campaign against Group C rivals Italy on June 10.

"All the sensations are positive. The group here is working well together," defender Sergio Ramos said.

The match against Serbia at the AFG Arena provides strikers such as Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo and Adrian Lopez a chance to secure their spot in the final Euro 2012 squad. Chelsea pair Fernando Torres and Juan Mata are not expected to play.

While Spain are without all-time leading scorer Villa, Puyol's absence also makes it unclear whether Ramos will be playing at full-back or centre-back, a position he was converted to by Jose Mourinho at Madrid.

comfortable

"I was a European and world champion at full-back, so it's a position I know well," Ramos said, "but I'm more comfortable in the centre."

Atletico's Juanfran Torres and Malaga's Ignacio Monreal are looking to challenge Valencia's Jordi Alba for a spot on the left side of the defence.

Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic makes his debut with a new-look squad that is preparing for September's World Cup qualifiers. "There is no need for us to waste our time and analyse the Spanish players," said new arrival Dejan Lekic, a striker with Spanish club Osasuna.

"Although they will not be playing with their strongest team, we have to treat them with the highest respect. Still, we have enough quality to mount a strong resistance."

Meanwhile, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has expressed his faith in controversial Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

The veteran tactician has dropped the 21-year-old on several occasions because of the player's indiscipline in the Premier League. However, Prandelli now believes the City striker is focused and determined to help the Azzurri at the Euros.

"When I heard Balotelli say that he will not leave Italy down to 10 men, I believed him 100pc," Prandelli said. "There is a great atmosphere in the team and there is a big awareness that something significant can be achieved.

"The players know this is an exceptional opportunity for them, they are taking responsibility and they will not fail."

Balotelli is among six strikers included by Prandelli in his preliminary squad. The others are Milan's Antonio Cassano, Roma's Fabio Borini, Mattia Destro of Siena, Udinese captain Antonio di Natale and Parma's Sebastian Giovinco.

Prandelli revealed he may consider taking all of his selected forwards to Poland. "All of the six strikers have truly touched me," he said. "They have quality and are modern strikers.

"They all deserve to be here. If we keep all six, then we will sacrifice a defender."

Irish Independent

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