MADRID, June 3 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish national team will play their first of two preparation matches for the forthcoming World Cup finals: the only one they have on home soil, where they take on Switzerland in Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday night.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui is unlikely to field any of the Real Madrid quintet of Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio, Dani Carvajal and Nacho Fernandez after Madrid’s win over Liverpool in the Champions League final a week ago.
Asensio, Ramos and Vazquez were allowed to rest before joining up with the squad on Friday evening, while Carvajal is working in the installations of the Spanish Football Federation, (RFEF) at Las Rozas, just outside of Madrid as he tries to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered a week ago in Kiev.
Nacho meanwhile gave up his chance of a week’s holiday and joined up with his Spain teammates at Las Rozas two days earlier than needed to carry out light training.
Lopetegui has been working with seven young ‘promises’ including Athletic Club Bilbao trio of Yeray Alvarez, Unai Nunez and Inaki Williams, to overcome the absence of the Madrid players, although Nunez and Williams left the squad on Friday along with Mikel Oyarzabal.
Lopetegui will try and give as many of the 18 players who are travelling to Russia as possible some match time, given that they have not played a competitive game since May 20th and have only one more practice match before kicking off their World Cup against Portugal in Sochi on June 15th.
That means he is likely to start with something similar to his starting 11 in Sochi, with the obvious absences of Ramos and Carvajal, with Alvaro Odriozola starting at left back and maybe Saul Niguel or Cesar Azpilicueta partnering Gerard Pique in central defence, although Yeray could have a chance of making his Spain debut.
Diego Costa is expected to lead the attack and it will be interesting to see if Iago Aspas or Rodrigo Moreno is given the chance to stake a claim to be in the starting 11.
The Swiss travel after the training injury suffered by in-form Arsenal midfielder Gramit Xhaka on Thursday and although Xhaka should be fit for Russia, he will miss out in Villarreal.