Coach Vicente del Bosque announced his pre-selection on Tuesday, but there were many notable absentees from Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Chelsea. And some may not get back in
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor
It was Spain, but not as we know it. As Vicente del Bosque announced his squad for the forthcoming friendlies against Serbia and South Korea on Tuesday, many familiar faces were missing.
With Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao to meet in the Copa del Rey final on May 25, Del Bosque was unable to call up players from the Catalan or Basque sides in La Roja's pre-selection for Euro 2012, while Chelsea duo Juan Mata and Fernando Torres were also absent due to their participation in Saturday's Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Del Bosque will announce his final 23-man party for Poland and Ukraine just two days after the Spanish cup showpiece - with up to half of his squad set to change. Although the absence of Barca and Athletic has given others a chance in this provisional party, few are likely to make it on the plane to eastern Europe early next month.
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea is included, while there are places for Malaga full-back Nacho Monreal and Atletico Madrid duo Alvaro Dominguez and Juanfran Torres in defence, where Real Madrid's Raul Albiol also comes in despite a lack of games for Jose Mourinho's men in 2011-12.
In midfield, Betis' Benat, Villarreal's Bruno Soriano, Malaga's Isco and Benfica's Javi Garcia are all interesting inclusions, while Sevilla's Jesus Navas is given a chance to impress in the first cut as well.
Further forward, there is an opportunity for Atletico's excellent Adrian alongside Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo and Valencia striker Roberto Soldado. Plenty of new faces, then. But what about the old ones?
|DEL BOSQUE'S PROVISIONAL SQUAD
||Real Madrid||David De Gea
||Valencia||Raul Albiol||Real Madrid|
||Real Madrid||Alvaro Dominguez
||Manchester City||Bruno Soriano
||Atletico Madrid||Alvaro Negredo
Of the Barcelona brigade, goalkeeper Victor Valdes will be expected to reclaim his slot after another impressive campaign which saw him retain the prestigious Zamora prize for conceding the least amount of Primera Division goals, while centre-back Gerard Pique is a certainty despite his patchy performances in 2011-12. Catalan captain Carles Puyol has been all but ruled out, however, with a knee problem which required arthroscopic intervention earlier this week.
Midfielders Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas all seem certain to be included, even though the latter looked well below his best in the second half of the campaign. With Spain, the former Arsenal captain is tried and tested - and he will be there when Del Bosque makes the final cut.
Less likely is the inclusion of striker David Villa. The former Valencia forward suffered a broken leg in the Club World Cup in December and had hoped to return to action in plenty of time to be able to prove his fitness for the continental competition. But with just one game remaining for Barca this term, he has yet to do so and Del Bosque has already expressed his doubts over the Asturian's selection.
Another absentee could be Pedro. The Tenerife-born winger made it to the World Cup in South Africa on the back of a highly impressive 2009-10 season with Barca, but he has been troubled by injuries and poor performances this term and has slipped down the pecking order. Only this week, Del Bosque hinted that Pedro may have to stay at home this summer.
Fellow forwards Isaac Cuenca and Cristiano Tello are likely to miss out as well despite impressing for Barca this term, while midfielder Thiago Alcantara also appears surplus to requirements given the embarrassment of riches for Del Bosque in midfield. Right-back Martin Montoya could be in with a chance of making the squad, however, particularly as Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos looks likely to move into the centre of defence.
Below his best | Pedro has struggled this term and looks set to miss Euro 2012
Club team-mates Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente have become key players for Del Bosque and look certain to make the grade for Euro 2012, while youngster Iker Muniain looks likely to be included following a series of energetic displays in 2011-12.
Chelsea's Mata, meanwhile, is a virtual certainty following his fine form in London, while team-mate Torres has made a timely improvement and now looks set to be included, especially if Spain are shorn of the services of Villa.
The three strikers currently called up, Adrian, Negredo and Soldado, could well be fighting it out for two places while there was no romantic return for Raul, despite his superb final season at Schalke.
Raul's absence has come to be expected ever since he was dropped by Luis Aragones in 2006, but like the former Real Madrid man, several of Spain's World Cup winners could be watching at home this summer as well. Left-back Joan Capdevila and centre-back Carlos Marchena have since drifted out of the international picture, while Puyol is all but certain to miss out through injury and serious doubts hang over the participation of Villa, Pedro and Albiol, too.
It's still Spain, but not as we know it.
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