Georgia vs. Spain: Picking the Strongest Team to Triumph in World Cup Qualifier
Spain make the trip to Georgia on Tuesday for their first World Cup qualifier.
Vicente Del Bosque's side will be in high spirits following their convincing and expected 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia last week, and there's a great deal of quality with which to put a strong starting XI together.
Midfielders are scoring for Del Bosque, while key figures are returning from injury; the road to Brazil is looking promising for the current world champions.
But with the quality and form of many in the Spain squad, should Del Bosque be faced with a selection headache?
Yes and no.
The depth of quality means Spain's natural possession-based game is never lessened in execution. But at the same time, Spain's regular starting XI is a winning side who really don't need too many tweaks.
The best move Del Bosque can make is to enforce slight changes and two or three personnel changes between games. This way, the momentum of the team is kept intact and each player can be given good roles in the side.
The opposition in Georgia means Spain will hardly be overexerted, but they really do need to start positively and take the three points when they're on offer.
Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas should retake his place in goal for the World Cup qualifier with Georgia. Casillas started the game against Saudi Arabia from the bench while Victor Valdes got 70-minutes worth of the game.
Casillas has been in fairly good form for Real this season, but there is certainly more to come from him. As the captain of the national side, it's always likely he'll be preferred to start the competitive games.
It was really pleasing to see Juanfran start the game against Saudi Arabia. The Atletico Madrid full-back has been excellent so far this season for Diego Simeone's side, and his attacking combination with Arda Turan on the right flank has been really promising.
Maybe he needed the big-club backing of Atletico to help force his way into the Spanish national side. And now with Sergio Ramos seemingly fixed to the centre-back role, there is sure to be a good level of competition between Juanfran and Alvaro Arbeloa.
Sergio Ramos is certain to figure at centre-back against Georgia following half the night off in Spain's last outing. He replaced Gerard Pique midway through as the partner for Raul Albiol and looked confident in his game.
His playing style with Real Madrid lends itself to a good level of understanding with the midfielders in the Spanish setup. He's quick, strong and will cause problems for onrushing forwards—although the threat is likely to be minimal in this World Cup Qualifier.
Gerard Pique was solid in the last game against Saudi Arabia. Coincidentally, so was Raul Albiol, but the Real Madrid defender's lack of games means he's unlikely to feature ahead of either Pique or Ramos in competitive action.
Pique and Ramos have forged an excellent partnership at the heart of Spain's defence. The Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry has been put on hold each time their national team has called, and this will be a solid foundation for many years to come.
Malaga's Nacho Monreal featured at left-back for Spain against Saudi Arabia, but Jordi Alba is likely to retake his place as the first-choice full-back for the national side.
Alba has looked comfortable so far this season in his efforts to adjust to life at Barcelona. But the former Valencia attacker was notably outstanding for Spain during this past summer's European Championship. His link-up play with Andres Iniesta was fantastic to see and his goal in the final was a good showcase of his attacking worth.
It would be great to see Vicente Del Bosque dip into his deep talent pool in the Spanish squad. Benat featured against Saudi Arabia, which was a pleasant surprise. Javi Martinez, meanwhile, would have been an ideal fit for this game against Georgia. Unfortunately, it seems Bayern Munich's latest signing is short of match fitness due to the prolonged transfer story of this summer.
At this stage, Sergio Busquets seems the most likely figure in the deep midfield role. He's been ever-present in the Spanish lineup since bursting onto the scene in Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side. Unquestionably one of the best holding midfielders in the game, he complements any combination of Andres Iniesta, Xavi or Xabi Alonso fantastically well.
Barcelona's midfield engine was rested for much of the team's last game. Xavi's involvement from the substitutes bench quickly turned into another goal for Spain, and he's one of the sure starters in Del Bosque's side.
The pace should be comfortable for Xavi in this game, with both his national team and club managers not wanting to put any great pressure on the midfielder's Achilles problem.
Xabi Alonso is another good bet to feature in Spain's important competitive games. He helps to anchor the midfield and retains possession with Xavi exceptionally well.
Like Real Madrid this season, Alonso has seen his form rise and dip in the few games so far, but he's always capable of the spectacular.
Pedro has really impressed this season, getting back among the goals and looking to rediscover his wonderful form of a few seasons ago.
He's sure to be a key figure for Barcelona and Spain over the next year, and his two goals against Saudi Arabia were further prove of his quality in front of goal.
His pace and ability on the ball is always going to be a plus for his teams, as he stretches the play and offers another target for the midfielders from the wide positions.
Chelsea's main striker looks to be on the road to "recovery" following the departure of Didier Drogba this summer. Fernando Torres really needed to be shown complete faith as the focal point of Chelsea's attack: a sentiment that is certainly felt by Vicente Del Bosque.
The Spain coach gave Torres the captain's armband in the last game and there was a real effort from his teammates to help him get another international goal.
Alvaro Negredo didn't impress in his short time on the pitch during Euro 2012, while Fernando Llorente is nowhere near to match fitness.
For now, it seems as though Torres is the go-to striker for Spain, with Cesc Fabregas operating in a different style if called upon. Torres will reach 100 games for Spain if he features on Tuesday.
Of all the high-profile Spanish midfielders in the Premier League, Santi Cazorla has impressed the most so far this season.
The Arsenal midfielder has added a wonderful touch of creativity and magic to Arsene Wenger's side, while he transferred his good club form to the national side by grabbing a goal against Saudi Arabia.
David Silva has always been the player to feature on one of the flanks for Spain, while the opposite side has seen a rotation of a group of players. This time, however, it's worth offering Cazorla a reward in a competitive game. There is certainly no compromise in quality by opting for Cazorla ahead of Silva.