2018 WORLD CUP
Lopetegui keeps options open on Morata's World Cup spot
Alvaro Morata has admitted his World Cup hopes are in the balance, but Julen Lopetegui has not ruled out taking the striker to Russia.
Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui has not ruled out the prospect of taking Alvaro Morata to the World Cup.
The Chelsea striker has acknowledged he fears for his place in the squad after a difficult first season in England, in which he has struggled to recapture some good initial form due to a back problem.
The former Real Madrid forward has not played for his country since November and is not guaranteed to start in Saturday's FA Cup final, Chelsea's last match of the season.
Lopetegui, though is still weighing up his options in attack and has not discounted Morata from his plans.
"I won't assess players individually," Lopetegui claimed in Catalan daily Sport. "He is one of the players we like, who has our confidence and we have to make decisions. We've always said the same of Morata, Diego Costa, Rodrigo [Moreno], Iago Aspas and some others who haven't been called up: we trust them, and we'll see."
13 - Alvaro Morata has scored his first goal for Chelsea since December 2017 (v Brighton), ending a run of 13 games in all competitions without one. Required. pic.twitter.com/5zhe098iQ1— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 18 March 2018
Lopetegui is eager to create a "balanced" squad for Russia and has denied that more versatile players, such as Barcelona's Sergi Roberto, could struggle to be part of his plans.
"We will put together basically a balanced list. We will leave some player out undeservedly, unfairly," he said. We do not penalise. We make decisions about players who can help us in certain games. Sergi has been called up and also gone home because of last-minute injuries. We'll see.
"The identity is clear. We're a predictable team but we have the ambition to improve as a team and to have different responses in matches. We want to be as complete as possible."
Lopetegui again dismissed the idea that any animosity between Barcelona and Real Madrid players could affect the harmony of the squad, insisting he will not ask the likes of Gerard Pique to behave in a certain way.
"Gerard has an important maturity in every aspect and he shows it," he said. "Everyone has their character and we can't go against this. Plus, we want everyone to show their personality because it is part of the DNA of each player. We don't have the slightest complaint.
"I have no doubt about their good relationship. They don't stage it. It's a reality. In the national team, there is a good atmosphere and nothing more to say."
Lopetegui added that he considers Andres Iniesta to be a key part of his plans because of the quality he possesses, rather than his past achievements.
The midfielder, who scored the winning goal in the 2010 final, is leaving Barca at the end of the season and is likely to step down from international football after the World Cup finals.
"I'm more aware of what he has to do than what he has done," Lopetegui added. "That's an important nuance. He's an active player. He isn't coming because of what he did, but of what he can do."
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