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VALDES INJURY CONCERN

Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has expressed his concern over the injury sustained by Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. The experienced goalkeeper sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which has effectively ended his Barcelona career. He revealed more than a year ago that he would be leaving the Catalan club at the end of the season, although he has been very silent about the destination. Even though he has never been the first choice goalkeeper for Spain, Valdes continues to remain an important part of the squad given his experience to the top of the game.

He was widely expected to be Spain’s second choice goalkeeper at the World Cup 2014, but it is now expected to be either Diego Lopez or Pepe Reina. Barcelona managed a stunning 3-0 win over Celta de Vigo during the weekend, but this match was halted for several minutes due to the injury sustained by Valdes. He landed awkwardly on the floor and scans have confirmed that he will be out for the next six months. This also ruled him out of the World Cup, in which Spain are the favourites to get the win.

As a result of this injury, both top goalkeepers – Iker Casillas being the – will not have been regular first-team players.

“Right now I’m not going to talk about possible replacements, because now is the time to bemoan Victor’s injury. It’s a setback for him, his club and for us. Now isn’t the time to talk about replacements,” said del Bosque. “It’s dreadful news. Now the important thing is for him to recover and send him a big hug. When you play games every three days, there’s no time to lament or let your head drop. We are used to coping with situations like this,” said Valdes’ club and international teammate Andres Iniesta.

RESPECT TO ARAGONES

Former Spain manager Luis Aragonés recently passed away after suffering a heart attack. The news has been received with great sadness from all of world football, as the man would forever be remembered as the person to start world domination from Spain. Aragonés led Spain to the first major title in 44 years after their victory at the Euro 2008. He also was the first to build on the passing style of football, which has been synonymous with the national team over these years. Spain have gone on to achieve numerous successes since then, but Aragonés is regarded as the one who started it.

Current manager Vicente del Bosque paid his tributes to the former Atletico Madrid manager by saying that this was a sad day for Spain as a whole because they had lost a key figure in modern sport. Del Bosque managed to carry on the success started by Aragonés, as he led the team to a European championship success and a World Cup title as well. Aragonés will also be fondly remembered as the person who gave Spain their identity in the form of ‘La Roja’ nickname. He said that Spain should be given this name in order to give the team a unique identity.

“I found out via a message at seven in the morning. I knew he had some health problems, but I never thought this would happen. Without a doubt, we will remember this day with great sadness. It’s a sad day for football. We have lost a key figure in the history modern sport. Without any doubt, he paved the way for such a successful era. He had enormous experience as a manager and personally speaking, I had a special appreciation for him,” said Vicente del Bosque.

Aragonés represented the likes of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid during his playing days.

STILL IN?

Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas has found first-team opportunities limited at Real Madrid this season. He has not played a league match in 2013, which could seriously affect his chances of being in the Spain squad for the World Cup 2014. He has been the number one goalkeeper for both club and country over the last decade. During this period, he has lifted every possible trophy including the World Cup and Champions league. However, Diego Lopez has been the number one under Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, which has increased speculation that Vicente del Bosque may also adopt this approach and drop him from the team.

Spain, who are the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup, will not be changing goalkeepers anytime soon according to the former Real Madrid coach, who recently extended his contract with the national team. Despite not featuring in the league matches, Casillas continues to remain as the number one in the European matches. Physically, he has been doing well and this will help him keep his place in the national team according to del Bosque. The manager has also revealed that he has started collecting data about the opposition at the World Cup.

Netherlands, Australia, and Chile will be the group opponents for Spain with every team being considered strong right now.

“He is active and training. He is playing in the Champions League and I don’t see any problems. Physically he’s fine. We are in the process of gathering data on all teams. We know Holland was a finalist in the World Cup and Chile has a very good team. Australia is the most anonymous but we have the utmost respect. The Netherlands have changed the most. They have retained some players but most are new and young,” said del Bosque.

He also spoke about the chances of Diego Costa being picked for the national team.

NO GUARANTEES

Spain national team manager Vicente del Bosque has stated that no player is guaranteed a place in the squad for the World Cup 2014. Spain had regarded as the best team in the world right now and they are the current holders of the World Cup. They will be going into the World Cup 2014 as one of the strong favourites to retain the title. Unlike other teams, they have an extremely strong squad, while Vicente del Bosque can even pick up several quality players who are struggling to get into the final squad.

Due to this amazing strength in depth, he has stated that each player should earn their right to be at the World Cup. The 62-year-old recently extended his contract with the Spanish national team. He has already guided them to World Cup and European championship success. Now, he will be the manager of the national team until the Euro 2016. He has pointed to the fact that the team showed a lot of changes from 2008 to 2012. He thinks that the Spain squad for the World Cup 2014 will also show a lot of differences compared to the squad of 2010.

“It’s a long way off. We have a wide range of players who could come. It’s a long journey until May. We could have injuries, setbacks… we’ll try to be as fair as possible and bring the best. The Euro 2012 squad changed 50% from the Euro 2008 squad, but I don’t think there will be that much change this time. We tried to bring a guy (Diego Costa) to the national team who is loved and compliments all the players we already have,” said del Bosque.

He expects the likes of Diego Costa to be called up for national team selection. The Atletico Madrid striker has been in fine form this season, but he is also eligible for Brazil.

BUSQUETS IS KEY

The arrival of Sergio Busquets to the international scene has coincided with the most successful period in the history of Spanish football, as they have won 2 European championships and one World Cup title during this period. The presence of the midfielder is also extremely key as they target qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2014 automatically. Only the winner of the qualifying group makes it into the competition automatically, while the second placed team will be competing in a play-off match.

Due to the presence of France in the group, Spain are not the outright favourites to secure qualification as the winners. In fact, they have struggled to take the top spot in the group, which they achieved only recently. They will be hoping to sustain this position with back-to-back victories in the next two World Cup qualifying matches. The first will be against Finland, which will be followed by a friendly match against Chile. Manager Vicente del Bosque is likely to be without Busquets for the Finland match because the midfielder has suffered a muscle injury.

The Barcelona midfielder only recently extended his contract with the Catalan club taking his stay to at least 2018. Spain will be sure of qualification if they win the next three matches.

“The club’s medical services believe there is a risk to the muscle and have been in contact with the Spanish federation to evaluate the players’ fitness and his place in the next international games,” said his club Barcelona in an official statement. The player is not likely to be risked for the friendly match against Chile. Spain have been playing against South American opponents in a number of friendly matches recently. This is believed to be a strategy designed to acclimatise the players against South American opponents in preparation for the World Cup.

Betting on La Liga

There are few of Europe’s top divisions, if any, that exhibit the kind of polarities present in La Liga and this could become ever more apparent after a host of top players left the division this summer. Barcelona are odds on to retain the title, whereas Real Madrid are around about 5/4 with most bookmakers and online casinos.

There isn’t a huge deal of value to be made there, but if Neymar fit in to the new Barca side and can gel with Messi, we could see something of a rebirth of the greatest team in recent memory. Much will depend on whether Real Madrid can complete the signing of Gareth Bale, and if you think this will be the case, Real could be a fantastic bet at current odds. (more…)

THE NEXT ALONSO

French manager Philippe Montanier, who has seen enough of Asier Illarramendi during his time at Real Sociedad, has said that Illarramendi has what it takes to become the next Xabi Alonso of the Spanish squad. Real Madrid recently signed the Spain under 21 star for around £ 27 million, thus making him one of the expensive young players in the world right now. Montanier believes that he has the capability to go on and emulate the success of Alonso at both club and national level.

Alonso is regarded as one of the best midfielders in his position. His wide range of passing coupled with the ability to read the game extremely well have made him one of the top players at Real Madrid. However, he is coming to the twilight of his career and is widely expected to leave Real Madrid in the next few seasons. Montanier reckons that the club may have found a potential successor in the form of Illarramendi. Illarramendi has been compared with Barcelona’s defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets on several occasions.

Montanier, though, things that Illarramendi has different qualities to Busquets and that it would be an injustice to compare the two players. He says that Illarramendi has enough quality to not only win the ball back, but also start the attack as well.

“Xabi is a reference point for Basque players and I feel that he can help him [Illarramendi] to grow and develop, too. They can definitely play together. Xabi and Asier are both great players. He has the right character to be a success and he’ll be a big player for Spain, too. Comparing is always difficult. Asier has different qualities [to Busquets]; the same role, yes, but different qualities. Asier is more in the mould of Xavi,” said the 48-year-old French manager.

CRITICISM ISN’T FAIR

Spanish national team manager Vicente del Bosque has said that the criticism of his team is not fair. Spain have been receiving a lot of criticism in recent months for not being at the very best. A lot is expected of the team, which has won the last two European championships along with one World Cup title. The national team has experienced unprecedented success under the management of del Bosque, but they have been looking increasingly vulnerable in the last few months. They are not yet sure of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup due to poor results against the likes of France and Finland.

Del Bosque has responded to the criticism by saying that the problems faced by the team are short-term rather than long-term. The 62-year-old boss has changed the playing style of the team significantly following their first major win in 2008. There have been times when Spain have played without a central striker due to the plethora of attacking midfielders they have in the squad. However, this experiment has been a hit and miss. There have been calls for Spain to go back to the traditional way of playing with the striker, but the former Real Madrid boss dismissed the criticism by saying that he expects Spain to adjust quickly.

“We have indeed shown some uncertainty in the position of centre forward, but it is also true that the problems have not been very regular. Michu should be praised for what he has done in the Premiership. He has had an extraordinary campaign. The selection issues are a reflection of Spanish football at the moment. We have a huge wealth of options, but there may be a pocket of people who are not happy with our extraordinary football at the moment,” said del Bosque in a recent interview.

CASILLAS FACES CRITICISMS

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has faced several issues with José Mourinho in the recent months, which has led to him being dropped from the first team. Mourinho has cited the poor form of the goalkeeper as the reason for his absence from the first team. Spanish national team manager Vicente del Bosque, though, has said that Casillas still remains crucial to the plans of the national team despite his omission at club level. He has said that he retains his complete faith in the 31-year-old, who has won all the major titles at national and club level.

Casillas is set to return to first-team action after spending more than two months on the sidelines due to injury. Del Bosque has confirmed that the goalkeeper will be back in the Spanish squad once he returns from injury. Spain recently managed a 1-0 win over France without Casillas in the squad. As a result of this impressive victory, they have moved out of their group table in the World Cup qualifying stages. Despite this, del Bosque has said that he is extremely cautious about the chances of the team in the upcoming World Cup

The victory means that Spain now enjoy a one-point advantage over France in the table.

“Iker will be in the next Spain squad once he has recovered from injury, as he’s an important player for the team and is our captain. It was an important win in France, but you can’t forget we still have three games left to play in the qualifying round and they won’t be easy at all,” said Vicente del Bosque. The winner of group will be able to qualify for the World Cup automatically, while the second placed team will have to go through a play-off match against a team from the same region.

SPAIN DOMINATE

Spain have been the dominant team in the world stage for the last few years now. The national team manager Vicente del Bosque has attributed the incredible strength in depth of the team as the main reasons for this dominance. Spain recently managed to extend the unbeaten run to 18 matches after the 3-1 win over Uruguay in a friendly match. Cesc Fabregas opened the scoring for Spain, but his goal was soon cancelled out by a goal from Cristian Rodrigues in the second half.       However, the striker Pedro Rodriguez managed to score two goals in the second half to hand Spain yet another victory.

As a result of this victory, confidence is once again extremely high within the Spanish team ahead of the 2013 confederations cup and the World Cup qualifying matches. Spain will be having key World Cup qualifying encounters against France next month. They will be looking to win this match after managing only a draw with the French in the reverse fixture. A number of high profile players are absent for this match against Uruguay. As a result, the manager called upon the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, who was making his debut for the national team. Yet, all the players performed extremely well in the run-up to the victory.

“They are all players who are going to increase the quality of our squad, and they have adapted to the group very easily, with no problems at all. They did what was asked of them, and they were showed the characteristics which made us call them up to the squad in the first place. Pedro is a dynamic player, who knows exactly what he needs to do on the pitch, and he’s got this incredible pace, which is vitally important in the modern game,” said Del Bosque.