Could Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes Be Starters for Spain at 2014 World Cup?
Spain weren't at their best when they beat Belarus 2-1 in Mallorca on Friday night, but Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes will have come away from the match with a slight smile on their faces.
Negredo might not have been smiling when Vicente del Bosque named his team though.
Just before the hour mark he got his chance, thrown on in place of Michu with Spain still seeking a breakthrough.
Within four minutes Xavi Hernandez had fired them in front. Within 20 Negredo had made it two, scoring a great header from a Sergio Ramos cross. The Madrid defender looked impressive on the right of a back three in the second half.
There was nothing overly brilliant about Negredo's cameo, so the superlatives can stay in the dictionary for now, but it did come with a dash of something which has not always been present in his previous Spain performances: belief.
The battle to be Spain's No. 9 is one of the most open within Del Bosque's lineup. It lies helplessly on the ground, desperately waiting for one of up to eight candidates (and counting) to seize it.
And it seems a summer move to Manchester City could have provided Negredo with the belief to be the man to take the opportunity.
Pace, goals, physicality and an aerial threat have never been missing from the 28-year-old's game. Consistency and continuity have been a problem though—particularly when he pulls on the Spanish red.
He's been in and out of Manuel Pellegrini's team so far this season in England, but a recent run of good form culminated with his being named City's best player against Everton by the clubs' supporters in the Manchester Evening News.
And with the nugget of a starting berth at the World Cup next summer, Negredo will be keen to maintain his performance levels.
Michu chance gone?
The ever-increasing clamour for Michu to be included in the Spain squad ended last weekend when Del Bosque called the 27-year-old up.
He didn't just call him up either, he started him against Belarus on Friday night.
But while the audition wasn't a disaster, it's questionable whether he'll be able to keep his place in the squad if Diego Costa becomes eligible for La Roja, and when David Villa and Fernando Torres return to fitness.
The Spain coach didn't seem too enamoured with the former Real Oviedo player after the 2-1 win either.
"Michu found it tough today," he said.
While England debate whether Joe Hart's inconsistencies for Manchester City should mean that he's dropped from the national side, Spain boast an embarrassment of riches in goal, with several top keepers who can't even get a game.
David de Gea and Diego Lopez, respective No. 1s at Manchester United and Real Madrid, don't make the squad and, until recently, Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina were guaranteed to play second fiddle to Iker Casillas.
Casillas' lack of games at Madrid though, coupled with Valdes' astonishing form for Barcelona, has led to an increased number of calls for the Barca stopper to be Spain's first choice.
On Friday night, despite having previously insisted Casillas would be his keeper regardless, Del Bosque did the right thing and picked the in-form player.
With the shirt now on his back, it's up to Valdes to make sure it stays there. With the form he's in, it's a good bet he'll do just that.
Samuel Marsden is a freelance sports journalist based in Barcelona. You can follow his updates on Twitter:
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