Vicente del Bosque has had a smooth ride with Spain on and off the pitch ever since he took control of the national team from Luis Aragones after Euro 2008.
But the ex-Real Madrid trainer will be up against it when selecting his squad for what will be his biggest test in the dugout to date as La Seleccion take on Turkey in a World Cup qualifying double-header, two crucial matches that could seal Spain’s path to South Africa 2010.
The biggest headache for Del Bosque is, of course, the forward line. David Villa, Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente are currently the three certainties in the squad but if the coach opts to bring in a fourth striker, then he has to decide between Alvaro Negredo, Dani Guiza, Joseba Llorente and, last but not least, Raul.
Many believe that the Los Blancos idol is out of the running but Marca insists that he is still in with a shot of a surprise return after a two-and-a-half year hiatus. AS, on the other hand, predicts that the coach could either keep his faith with Guiza or give the in-form Negredo his first ever call-up.
Both Villa and Torres, however, also have doubts. The Valencia hot-shot has only just returned from injury and has not featured for Los Che in almost a month. Meanwhile, El Nino’s manager at Liverpool, Rafa Benitez, is trying to force Del Bosque to limit his striker’s international involvement, while team-mates Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbelao are also not at their peak physical condition.
David Silva is struggling with a muscle overload, while Barcelona defender Carles Puyol has only just completed recovery on an ankle sprain, although he will be suspended anyway for the first game against the Turks at the Santiago Bernabeu. His Barca colleague, Gerard Pique, will be the favourite to cover for him, while Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez should get his long-awaited first call-up.
Del Bosque will announce his squad on Friday at CET. Spain, currently leading Group 5, have a four-point lead over second-placed Turkey. The first match in Madrid will take place on March 28, while the return trip in Istanbul will be on April 1.