Friday 19 January 2018

Martinez set to fill Spain's Puyol void

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

VICENTE Del Bosque may look towards tonight's Europa League final for the solution to his defensive problems as he comes to terms with the news that Carles Puyol is likely to miss Euro 2012.

The Spanish manager admits to being "worried" as he gears up towards Poland next month.

Ireland's Group C rivals are suffering an interrupted preparation due to fitness concerns.

Athletic Bilbao star Javi Martinez has emerged as a possible makeshift centre-back option, although he is better known as an outstanding defensive midfielder. His Bilbao team-mate, Andoni Iraola, could also benefit from the reshuffle.

Del Bosque is expected to switch Sergio Ramos into the centre of his back four alongside Gerard Pique if Puyol misses out.

That would bring fromer Liverpool man Alvaro Arbeloa into the picture at right-back.

However, there are suggestions that the Spanish boss would be worried about losing Ramos' attacking width from the full-back department, and may look to keep him there. That's where Martinez comes into the picture. He has starred in his side's charge to the Europa League final.

The 23-year-old was a peripheral squad member in Spain's 2010 World Cup success and captained the Spanish U-21 team to victory in the European Championships last year.

It's anticipated that Puyol will miss out after he suffered discomfort in his knee following Barcelona's weekend thrashing of Espanyol. He requires arthroscopic surgery and a six-week lay-off is the prognosis.

Del Bosque will try and give him every chance and the same applies to his Barca team-mate David Villa, who wants to prove his health before the May 29 deadline. The striker broke a leg in December.

"We are worried," said Del Bosque. "Villa is a serious doubt. It is very hard to call up someone if they cannot play a single match."

Puyol's international career could now be over. He said he wanted to continue for two more years after the success in South Africa and is one cap away from reaching a century of appearances for his country.

"It's a serious setback, he's a considerable loss not only for what he gives on the pitch, but for what he contributes to the team (off it)," continued Del Bosque.

"It's also a shame that this happened when he was on the verge of playing 100 caps, but hopefully he can get there. He was having a great end to the season."

Irish Independent

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