Belfast Telegraph

Pressure on Spain coach to rest Barcelona stars

By Pete Jenson

A club versus country dispute and Barcelona's marathon fixture list could lighten England's load at Wembley on Saturday.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque named his squad to face Fabio Capello's men yesterday and it was enough to strike fear into the most optimistic England fan but the World Cup winning coach is under pressure to rest Barcelona and Real Madrid players.

Barcelona play a King's Cup fixture tomorrow and Spanish FA rules oblige them to pick at least seven first team players to start the game and to have a further three on the bench. The game has been brought forward because when the rest of Spain kicks-off the first round proper of its knockout competition Barcelona will be at the World Club Cup.

Pep Guardiola is already without Thiago Alcantara and Issac Cuenca who are on Spain U21 duty and is also missing South American internationals Lionel Messi, Adriano, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano.

As a consequence he will be forced to field Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and David Villa a day before they travel to Madrid to join up with their international team-mates.

Real Madrid have no such commitment but Jose Mourinho has already complained about players being whisked off to play in Costa Rica — the venue of Spain's friendly next week — and with the season's first El Clasico looming large on the horizon there will be pressure on Del Bosque not to load his team with Real Madrid players either.

Del Bosque defended the international commitments saying: “We schedule the friendlies in the best interests of the [Spanish FA] and the national team.

“We have only played five games since the summer and no player has played a full 90 minutes.

“There are only three games before we have to name the squad for the European Championship and we have to take full advantage of them. England is a great opponent in an extraordinary stadium.”

Despite the intention of standing up to Spain's big two, Del Bosque is expected to lean heavily on Premier League-based players for Saturday's clash which will still leave England having to face the likes of David Silva and Juan Mata but possibly sparing them a full 90 minutes against the likes of Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi.

The president of those Barcelona players has meanwhile radically altered his line on sharing television revenue by saying he would agree to an English Premier League-style split if the Spanish league was reduced to a 16-club competition.

Sandro Rosell floated the idea of compromising Barcelona and Real Madrid's financial advantage over the rest.

Belfast Telegraph


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