Spain v Costa Rica live: international friendly
Lopetegui's Spain host Costa Rica at La Rosaleda on Saturday 11 November in an international friendly, with kick-off at 21:30. Morata's back for Spain.
In Málaga, with La Rosaleda in party mood to see Isco, Lopetegui starts his final casting for the Spanish national side, with the games in the spring still to come, to see which 23 players will be heading to Russia for the World Cup next summer. He's brought 25 along this time, and there are others who will get a chance before the final call-up. Of those in Málaga for the game against Costa Rica, three still have to make their debut: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Suso and Luis Alberto. Of these Kepa, Athletic Club's keeper, who Madrid are keen on, is most like to start. Zidane will be watching.
Real Madrid target Kepa
Kepa, who was European Under-21 runner up, has always shown a maturity rare in one so young. At 16 he did his first pre-season with Athletic. By 21 he was the regular keeper at San Mamés, after a spells away with Ponferrada and Valladolid. Gaizka Garitano, his coach at the latter club, said he was likely the best keeper of his generation. "It feels like he's been doing this for years. It's difficult to find a weak spot in his game".
Valverde who played him in 23 games last season talked along the same lines: "He's got [incredible] reflexes, presence on the pitch and a feeling of security, which he transmits to the rest of the team".
Kepa likely to start for Spain
Lopetegui had him out on Friday in the practice game with the starters, a good indication as to what will happen today. The other two things in his favour are that Russia is likely a tougher test, making the veteran De Gea more likely to start there, and the fact that Reina has only taken part in two of the five training sessions.
Spain unbeaten in 14
The practice game is important, but so is Spain's unbeaten run. Lopetegui's side have now gone 14 games without tasting defeat, and having played Italy twice, Belgium, France, England and Colombia. Keeping the run going is a way of sending a signal to the competition. A reputation of being unbeatable helps in the big competitions. Just ask Brazil, Germany or Italy...
Lopetegui has used 45 players (six debutantes) in his short spell in charge. And 15 of them have scored. Silva with nine is his top scorer. The average age is 27.5 - two more than the World Cup winners of South Africa, mostly because of the weight of the veterans in the side from that imperious age. Seven are over 30 now. But 11 of the squad haven't won 10 caps yet. Games like today are basically all about them.
Morata back for Spain
Spain can count on Morata, who is back from injury and has bagged eight goals for Chelsea. The feeling is Lopetegui will start with more of the regulars - with Iniesta and Silva directing the team, with Isco turning on the style, backed by an enthusiastic public.
Costa Rica heading to Russia
The opposition, Costa Rica, are no longer a team under development. They played in their first World Cup in 1990, with their current coach, Óscar ‘Machillo’ Ramírez, in the team. This will be their fifth, having qualified second in the CONCACAF zone, behind Mexico, whose population is 25 times bigger (120 million vs 4.8).
They've now gone three games without a win though, and are missing through injury their big names: Real Madrid's Keylor Navas, Betis' Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz. 15 of the squad play outside Costa Rica. Ramírez, who is a methodical and extremely religious coach, has given his side, known previously for being tough rather than daring, a more attacking air. "When everything is going against us, he's always got an ace up his sleeve" says keeper Pemberton. Los Ticos are 22nd in the world. A decent test for Spain.
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