INTERNATIONALS | SPAIN - IRELAND
Del Bosque to try out line-up for Confederations Cup opener
Spain face the Republic of Ireland (02:00 CET) in a rehearsal for their first Group B match against Uruguay. Víctor Valdés and David Villa will start.
Spain will use the friendly against the Republic of Ireland in New York (Wednesday, 02:00 CET) to try out the side which will open their Confederations Cup campaign against Uruguay on Sunday 16 June. There could be only one or two changes to the line-up against the Irish, and it appears that today’s goalkeeper will keep his place. With Víctor Valdés set to start in the ‘Big Apple’, all the indications are that he is in pole position to be number one in Brazil.
As in the 2-1 win over Haiti, coach Vicente del Bosque is expected to continue with just one deep-lying midfielder. That spot goes to Sergio Busquets, who did not play in Miami due to injury. Depending on how he fares, he will be backed up by Javi Martínez, a colossus who is waiting for his moment. Busquets will begin as the central midfield lynchpin, in a tactical arrangement identical to that used by Barcelona (Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta).
The Confederations Cup will be the first official tournament in which Del Bosque breaks up the ‘doble-pivote’ shield of two deep-lying midfielders which he has favoured since his time in charge at Real Madrid. Xabi Alonso’s absence through injury has compelled him to make this tactical shift. However, it is also perfectly possible that, sooner or later, ‘La Roja’ will revert to a midfield pairing of ‘Busi’ joined by Javi Martínez.
In attack, there will also be a change or two. The return of David Villa to the team is guaranteed, with Del Bosque certain to select him on the left of the forward line in order to leave a goal-scoring corridor free for Cesc Fàbregas, who scored again against Haiti.
The Spain coach sees Fàbregas as a closet goal-scorer, a player with a killer instinct greater than initial appearances suggest. There is little doubt that the national coach intends to persist with the Barça man as a ‘false nine’, and that this decision will open up a space for Villa, another player in whom Del Bosque has limitless faith. ‘El Guaje’, Spain’s all-time highest scorer, has the edge over Fernando Torres and Roberto Soldado, who performed well against Haiti. ‘El Niño’ is in great physical shape and shot well on two occasions, while Soldado was only denied by the woodwork. But both are behind Villa in the pecking order, and if Spain work well against Uruguay, Del Bosque will leave the team as it as (with the possible exception of the match against the weaker opposition posed by Tahiti) and, as long as the team progresses through the tournament, those who are in from the start will keep their places.
Mercifully, the match in New York is expected to take place in wholly more clement weather conditions than those experienced in Miami. The temperature will not exceed 24 degrees, while the humidity will also be lower than in Florida. What’s more, recent rainfall on the east coast will leave a quicker playing surface, one much more suited to Spain’s playing style than that which they will face in Brazil.
For the world and European champions, the friendly against Giovanni Trapattoni’s side, who they saw off 4-0 at Euro 2012, will be the ideal opportunity to hone their attacking play against a side committed to defence.