With 13 senior players away on international duty, Lopetegui organised a practice match at training this Thursday against Real Madrid Castilla, in which Mariano showed his killer instinct in front of goal and Vinicius, who played with the first team, again displayed flashes of brilliance. The Basque coach has also welcomed back Jesus Vallejo to training, after an injury that had kept him out of action since the US pre-season tour.
Mariano has shown himself to be an efficient goal scorer so far in training sessions, and played a starring role in Thursday’s practice match. The Spanish-Dominican forward formed part of a frontline alongside Benzema, a regular starter these days under Lopetegui, and Vinicius, who will probably miss out on Castilla’s trip Adarve this Sunday, as the club may now only allow him to play home games with the reserve team as a way of protecting him. There seemed to be a special affinity between this attacking trio, which managed to score three goals in the game against Castilla – two coming from Mariano and one from Benzema.
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A chance to impress the coach
Lucas Vázquez and Alvaro Odriozola (both of whom were left out of Luis Enrique’s Spain squad to face England) also took advantage of the absence of internationals to get some game time in their legs and to show Lopetegui what they are capable of.
Also present in the practice match were Keylor Navas and Marcelo, as both players had turned down respective call ups for Costa Rica and Brazil’s upcoming friendly games to stay working with Lopetegui at Valdebebas during the international break.
In the absence of Thibaut Courtois, who is on international duty with Belgian, it was a chance for Navas to convince the coach that he is still his number one. Although perhaps it is too late now for the Costa Rican to sway the decision of Lopetegui, who confirmed this Thursday on Spanish radio that: “We have an idea for the goalkeeper that we will not make public.”