Spain Have An Awful Lot Of Players

Spain have such an embarrassment of riches that the likes of Jesé Rodriguéz, Isco, Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Morata are in the U-21s. Where does the production line end?

Last Updated: 07/03/14 at 15:04 Post Comment

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In terms of a fist-waving, Putin-pouting statement of strength, Spain's 1-0 victory over Italy in Wednesday's friendly at Atlético Madrid's Vicente Calderón was not so much due to a buzzing performance from those who began the clash, but was set by those who were absent or joined the Mediterranean affair later on in the evening.

Despite choosing a fearsome rival in Italy - a high-risk strategy in itself for a friendly try-out -Vicente Del Bosque opted to leave Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and even Fernando Llorente out of the squad for the game, as well as not being able to count on an injured Gerard Piqué. Starting the match from the bench but eventually playing a smaller role were Xabi Alonso, David Silva, Jesus Navas and Santi Cazorla. Heck, Alvaro Negredo and Xavi Hernández did not even set foot on the pitch.

One of the purposes of the clash was to finally give Diego Costa a run-out as number nine, as part of Spain's ongoing casting of who may or may not lead the line in the World Cup in Brazil. Unfortunately for the Brazilian-Spaniard, it was a quiet night for Costa despite playing at his home ground with just a couple of shots on goal. But in the forward's defence, being a striker for Spain is a difficult affair with Del Bosque still preferring to get his goals from all over the park, leaving the forward in a philosophical hole of being a real and false number nine at the same time. "It's a big headache for us," admitted Italy's manager Cesare Prandelli ahead of the game when discussing having to organise a defence that does not where incursions will be coming from.

Pedro's second-half winner gave Spain a rare strong performance and result in a friendly game, which they do not always take seriously, but the most impressive performance came the day before in the U-21 clash with Germany. A 2-0 victory gave the youngsters a 13th consecutive win, but it was the strength of the starting XI that was truly jealousy-inspiring with Real Madrid's Jesé Rodriguéz, Isco, Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Morata featuring - footballers with regular exposure to big-game football - along with other players such as Sevilla full-back Alberto Moreno and Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain.

With the international week successfully completed for Spain, the truly terrific league title race continues this weekend. League leaders Real Madrid face a stubborn Levante side that could make life uncomfortable for them early doors, but don't have the firepower to trouble Carlo Ancelotti's outfit too much.

Sitting in third and three points behind their neighbours are Atlético Madrid, who face a Celta Vigo side led by Luis Enrique that is finally beginning to get the rewards and points that performances have deserved. Barcelona are travelling to take on the challengingly spelled Valladolid after another week of upheaval off the pitch.

Carles Puyol announced that he will be leaving the club two years early at the end of the current campaign, having given up on the battle to get his knee back to full fettle. The footballer's leadership, experience and wonderful perm will be greatly missed in a back four that is already struggling for bodies that perform the simple job of clearing corners. "Replacing players like these are not just simple adjustments," admitted the club's Sporting Director Andoni Zubizaretta.

Another worry in the Catalan camp was the story that Leo Messi vomited during Argentina's friendly clash against Rumania, with Tata Martino admitting on Friday that, "I spoke to him and it happens a lot. I know that this is not normal but it doesn't affect his job."

With Barcelona suffering from the harsh, unavoidable reality of their players getting on a bit and not quite being what they were, it was still a sprightly week for Spanish football which showcased the health of their international sides. If a country is able to leave a top Serie A striker and a Manchester United attacker at home and plonk Isco with the wee nippers, then it is a clear sign that the health of the football nation is looking pretty good.

Tim Stannard

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