Waiting on Carvajal
The Spain squad heads to Krasnodar today with two additional squad numbers: twenty-five instead of twenty-three. We’re not talking about squeezing in stowaways, but rather Vallejo and Rodri, a back-up plan in the event of any last-minute withdrawals. The FIFA regulations allow countries to replace a player from the 23-man squad up to 24 hours before the first game in the case of an authorised injury. In this instance, Carvajal is the one being wrapped in cotton wool. We all saw those inconsolable tears in Kiev after he limped off prematurely, and Lopetegui has decided to hold out for any possibility of the Madrid right-back playing - calling him up and taking him to Krasnodar, but…
The but rests on the fact that not everything has gone according to plan, and there remains a strong possibility that Carvajal will be forced to sit out the tournament. The final decision will be made on 14 June because Spain play their first match of the tournament against Portugal on the 15th. If Carvajal is finally ruled out, the most likely replacement is Rodri, a central midfielder, not a defender. This is the only position without a back-up option in the initial squad list, although a definitive injury to Busquets could not be covered with any certainty either. Against Switzerland Thiago played there, albeit out of position – he doesn’t cover the back line or break up the play like Busquets, nor is he as assured with his passing and distribution. Thiago is more comfortable further up the field, where he can take more risks.
Opting for Rodri would mean losing a man in defence, which would be reduced from eight to seven defenders, whereas the Vallejo option would mean eight remain, but that’s not the most likely scenario. Vallejo has gone all out in training and Lopetegui is reportedly delighted with him and would call on him for training sessions to practice playing in tight spaces. However, he’s not the solution for covering a Carvajal-shaped hole, should the Madrid man not make it. Let’s not forget, however, that Spain do have two multi-purpose defenders in their ranks - Nacho and Azpilicueta – who could both do a job if called upon. That being said, this is an issue that will be resolved at the eleventh hour.