Luis Enrique, Champions League draw, Infantino, Zidane
It's been an interesting end to the week - one packed full with something for football fans everywhere – including Luis Enrique’s latest Spain squad list as La Roja make their return following their disappointing exit from the Nations League – all of the optimism generated by a great start wilted following back-to-back defeats to England and Croatia. Now we are gearing up for the first Euro 2020 qualifiers. Spain are in Group F along with Norway, Malta, Faroe Islands, Sweden and Romania. Two teams from the group will advance to the Euro 2020 finals. From Luis Enrique’s list, a team will be picked for the matches against Norway on Saturday 23rd in Valencia and the away trip to Malta at La Valetta on Tuesday 26th. There are some interesting call-ups – among them, that of Jaime Mata, Getafe’s goal scorer extradordinaire who at 30 years of age, is finally being rewarded for his consistency.
Familar faces handed a recall for Spain
Luis Enrique recognizes the merits of players who are in the best form and calling Mata is a good example of that. And not the only one - Jesús Navas is back, as are Dani Parejo and Sergio Canales, which signals a complete overhaul of the midfield, in which there’s no room for Koke, Saúl or Isco, the usual candidates for those positions. It’s quite a significant change. Of course, Luis Enrique rolled out his standard justification of not talking about those who haven’t been included in the list, in spite of questions from the press. He said the same about Casillas, who some hope might return some day, and here we see Navas recalled for the first time in a while. Casillas is playing exceptionally well at the moment. But it’s clear that no one is going to dislodge De Gea for the time being at least.
More good news
Also on Friday we had the draw for the quarter finals of the Champions League, which steered Cristiano and Messi onto different routes towards the final – providing they get there of course... Barça’s rivals, Manchester United, are neither very good nor very bad. The worst thing that could have happened today occurred in the Europa League draw, which pitted Valencia against Villarreal. That’s rotten luck. As for the rest, Infantino finally announced his Club World Cup update plans, which will feature 24 teams and will take place every four years instead of annually. I like it although I’m sure that while UEFA will be reticent about it, it will go ahead and work as planned. And last but by no means least, Zidane, the cheerful, smiling face of the Florentino regime, has announced the end of Isco’s house arrest; Isco might have been overlooked in the national team list, but at least he’s recovered the right to feel like a footballer once again.