Out of form and out of favour at Chelsea, Alvaro Morata is now out of the latest Spain squad to put his summer in Russia at risk
With little time left to make drastic changes, Julen Lopetegui announced on Friday his latest squad for Spain’s national team. 24 men were included on his list, with notable absences and noteworthy additions which include Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, Valencia’s Dani Parejo and Villarreal’s Rodri Hernández.
The World Cup is three-months-away and this will be the last time that Lopetegui will be able to make a test-run with his starting line-up, with two upcoming friendly matches against Germany and Argentina.
Although the final squad will more than definitely include injured players such as Sergio Busquets, his absence in the midfield provided Lopetegui with the chance of mixing-it up with newcomers that are excelling this season. Valencia’s Dani Parejo comes to mind: the Bats have been lucky enough to enjoy the best version of their mastermind this year, and his call by Lopetegui is much deserved.
Similarly, Rodri has been a beast with Villarreal replacing the injured Bruno Soriano: the young midfielder has been sensational to date, and his progress might be even more impressive further along the line (he’s only 21).
However, arguably the biggest name to make the list has been Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso. Spain has trusted Jordi Alba with the left back position for many years, but Lopetegui knows that a demanding season playing for Barça might take a toll on the defender, who has become one of Leo Messi’s best associates on the pitch. Therefore, the coach has chosen a player with a different style and very strong physically, something definitely important in such a short, demanding tournament as a World Cup.
… and notable absences
In that sense, controversy will arise for sure if some of the heavy-hitters that Lopetegui didn’t call this time finally don’t make it to the World Cup. Álvaro Morata is the best example: after losing Conte’s trust and dealing with back-pain which has taken a toll on his performance this season, the Chelsea striker has been left out of the almost-definitive list. Something that, due to his Madridista past, hasn’t been well received by some national newspapers, which are usually adamant on having as many Madrid players in the national squad as possible.
Actually, Morata’s absence provides a chance of thoughtfully looking at Spain’s attack and midfield. Insight into Lopetegui’s playbook seems to favor players who gel well with each other with ball possession. Possibly that’s the reason to include ‘peloteros’ such as Parejo o Rodri, who absolutely need the ball to carry the pace of the game.
Marcos Alonso could become the third generation of his family to play for Spain 🇪🇸
His grandfather and father both played for their country.
— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) March 17, 2018
In front, it also benefits strikers with much needed mobility such as Aspas, Lucas and Rodrigo, but places a big question mark on Diego Costa. However, Lopetegui isn’t a fool and he will probably stick with him as the Lagarto-born forward delivers hustle, physical superiority and that attitude we all have learnt to love about him.
Players who have been called earlier this season, such as Callejón, Suso, Marc Bartra, Asier Illarramendi or Alberto Moreno, are also absent from this ‘dress-rehearsal’. Regarding defenders, many fans question Lopetegui’s choices in the full-back position, as he relies heavily in the pair of ‘frenemies’ made up by Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué. Spain really don’t have a top-level replacement for any of them in case they are injured or sent-off.
Spain’s full list
Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David de Gea (Manchester United).
Defenders: Álvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Carvajal (Real Madrid), Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago (Bayern), Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona), Saúl Ñíguez (Atlético de Madrid), Dani Parejo (Valencia), Koke (Atlético de Madrid), Rodri (Villarreal), David Silva (Manchester City), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) y Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Rodrigo Moreno (Valencia), Iago Aspas (Celta) y Diego Costa (Atlético)