For Julen Lopetegui's Spain, preparations for this month's World Cup finals begin in Vila-real tonight against Switzerland, a tougher test than it might appear. Vladimir Petkovic has managed to put together a strong group of players, conjuring up players from here and there – both homegrown and naturalized immigrants. Right now, Switzerland are sixth in the FIFA ranking and are one of the toughest sides to score against. Tonight they’ll be without Xhaka, the player who makes them tick but even that will take little away from a side who are rock solid. So this won’t be a comfortable test. I would imagine that Lopetegui will field the best players he has at his disposal, apart perhaps from Piqué, whose carrying a knock and the Real Madrid players who have only just joined up with the squad, although maybe Nacho might get a run-out.
Spain without Real Madrid contingent
I mention Nacho because he arrived at the Spain camp and joined the squad’s training sessions before the rest of his club team mates who were give a few days’ off after their triumph in Kiev. Two of those players, Carvajal and Sergio Ramos, are normally first choices for Lopetegui and their presence will be missed tonight. From what we could gain watching yesterday’s session, Piqué wasn’t among the players who are expected to start, maybe he’s not yet over his aches and pains. It’s been a long season for Piqué and it is not worth risking him in a friendly. So with so many absentees at the back, it’s feasible that Nacho, a player who is always willing to stand up and be counted, will be Real Madrid’s only representative. Lucas Vázquez and Asensio have only just joined up with the squad - while Sergio Ramos and Isco, who are also now on board, won’t make the trip to Vila-real.
Deciding who will lead Spain's attack
But for Spain, all eyes will be on their attack where there are three players competing for one or two places: Diego Costa, Iago Aspas and Rodrigo. Diego Costa is the preferred choice for Lopetegui, but he has mustered just seven goals since Christmas and hasn’t looked in peak shape physically. Nor has he had the best of luck during the four years he’s been with the national team. Iago Aspas has excelled with Celta. Rodrigo, who has ample experience under his belt leading the attack for Spain’s Under-21s, has turned into a dynamic striker who guarantees goals under Marcelino’s guidance. Switzerland’s organized defence will provide an ideal test for Spain’s attack – the only area in the team where there are doubts.