7 Things Spain Coach Vicente Del Bosque Should Test Against Bolivia
Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has named a 19-man squad for his side's friendly with Bolivia on Friday, as reported by Inside Spanish Football.
It had previously been reported that La Roja's boss would announce his final 23-man World Cup squad on Sunday, following the conclusion of the UEFA Champions League final contested by Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid—two teams featuring a number of World Cup hopefuls.
However, Del Bosque has delayed selecting his final 23 players, with the injury issue hanging over Diego Costa a primary concern for the manager.
Consequently, the 63-year-old has announced a smaller group, which he described as a "continuity list," allowing players who contested the Champions League final to rest.
With a low-key matchup against a vastly inferior opponent looming, it's likely Del Bosque will look to experiment a little in order to learn more about the various options available to him.
Across the following slides, we outline the 19-man squad the manager has picked to face Bolivia, as well as seven things he could try at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday.
Vicente Del Bosque's 19-Man Squad to Face Bolivia
Midfielders: Xavi (Barcelona), Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Club Bilbao), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United)
Forwards: Pedro (Barcelona), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona)
As reported by Inside Spanish Football.
David de Gea in Goal
It is expected that Manchester United's David de Gea will eventually inherit Iker Casillas' throne when the Spanish captain retires from international duty.
Given that the 23-year-old is still yet to make his senior debut for Spain, Friday's clash with Bolivia represents an ideal opportunity to award the young shot-stopper his first cap.
Although De Gea won't get the opportunity to play behind Del Bosque's first-choice back four, the likes of Gerard Pique, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba are all available and could take part in Seville.
The experience could prove valuable, especially if Casillas is forced to miss any action at the World Cup through injury or suspension.
Alberto Moreno at Left-Back
Vicente del Bosque already knows exactly what to expect from Barcelona's Jordi Alba at left-back in this Spain team.
As a result, awarding some significant playing time to his understudy, Alberto Moreno, would be worthwhile for the manager.
An Andalusian local, the 21-year-old has been extremely impressive for Los Rojiblancos this season, attracting interest from Premier League clubs such as Chelsea, as reported by The Mirror.
Although Moreno can't quite match the potent attacking threat offered by Alba, the promising left-back has proved to be an extremely reliable defender, as well as a proficient exponent of crosses.
Expected to be selected in Del Bosque's final 23-man squad, it would be sensible to allow Moreno to develop a feel for this Spanish team on Friday.
Javi Martinez Paired with Gerard Pique in Central Defence
Central defence is not Javi Martinez's preferred position. Yes, he played as a centre-half during his stint at Athletic Club Bilbao and also performed the role under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, but the Spaniard made his name as a holding midfielder under Jupp Heynckes in Bayern's incredible 2012-13 season.
However, the make-up of Vicente del Bosque's provisional World Cup squad suggests that Martinez will be used as a defender if he is to enjoy playing time in Brazil.
Indeed, Ander Iturraspe's inclusion as cover for Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, plus the absence of significant back-up for Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, indicates that Del Bosque views the 25-year-old as a defensive option in his squad.
Thus, the manager should look to provide Martinez with experience alongside Pique, given Ramos' absence for Friday's match.
When he has been without one of his primary centre-backs, Del Bosque has used Busquets in the middle of the back four on a number of occasions. But Iturraspe could benefit from playing time alongside Busquets in midfield, meaning Martinez should be used in conjunction with Pique against Bolivia.
Ander Iturraspe Alongside Sergio Busquets in Midfield
Vicente del Bosque has typically deployed two holding midfielders—usually Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso—in his teams, which has allowed the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta to operate with attacking freedom.
Given that Alonso isn't in the squad for Friday's match, it would seem logical to hand the uncapped Ander Iturraspe the Real Madrid star's usual position alongside Busquets.
Of course, the Basque midfielder was considered a likely candidate to be cut from Spain's provisional 30-man World Cup squad, but the forced absence of Thiago Alcantara may cause Del Bosque to bolster his central midfield options.
Consequently, the manager should look to deploy the Athletic Club Bilbao star as a holding midfielder on Friday to give the 25-year-old valuable experience in the team's Barcelona-esque methods.
Gerard Deulofeu on the Right Wing
Gerard Deulofeu's inclusion in Vicente del Bosque's 19-man squad is undoubtedly the most notable of all the manager's selections.
Despite a promising season with Everton in the Premier League, the Barcelona youth product wasn't named in Spain's provisional 30-man squad.
However, as reported the BBC, Del Bosque indicated that Deulofeu is very much a part of his thinking: "We trust him and if someone were to pull out tomorrow he would be top of the list."
Therefore, La Roja's boss should experiment with the uncapped 20-year-old on the right side of his attacking line against Bolivia. The emerging Catalan is the type of player capable of adding pace and width to La Roja's attack—important qualities for a team that can become narrow and somewhat predictable.
The chance to link up with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta would also be a highly sought after experience for Deulofeu.
If any of Del Bosque's attackers were to withdraw from the World Cup, it appears that the 20-year-old would be drafted into the squad as cover.
Pedro as a False No. 9 for 45 Minutes
In 2012, an overwhelming majority of Spanish football fans indicated to AS in a poll, as relayed by Inside Spanish Football, that they wanted to see Pedro used as Vicente del Bosque's false No. 9.
The rationale was simple: The Barcelona forward had just registered a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Belarus and fans remained unconvinced of Cesc Fabregas' ability to hold down the position.
Pedro has since endured two difficult seasons at Barcelona, but there are a number of reasons why experimenting with the Tenerife-born player as a false No. 9 is worthwhile.
Most obviously, as explained here, Del Bosque has a striker headache: Diego Costa is battling injury, Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Torres and David Villa are all struggling for form, while Fernando Llorente appears to be out of favour at present.
Behind his natural strikers, Fabregas—who has typically performed the role for La Roja—has form concerns of his own.
So, while Pedro might not be a hand-in-glove fit for the position, trialling the Barcelona forward as a false No. 9 could develop another possible option for Del Bosque, should his preferred ones fail to fire in Brazil.
Fernando Torres Up Front for 45 Minutes
As well as using Pedro as a false No. 9 for 45 minutes, Vicente del Bosque should provide Fernando Torres with an opportunity to impress across the duration of a half.
The former Liverpool striker has suffered a well-documented decline at Chelsea since 2011 and will be a borderline selection for the World Cup, despite owning winners' medals for all three of the nation's recent major triumphs.
However, Spain's intricate passing and possession dominance may present Torres with more scoring opportunities than he's enjoyed at Stamford Bridge. The more expressive style could inspire greater confidence within the 30-year-old, too.
Torres has been a mainstay of Del Bosque's squads, and the manager should give him the chance to push for World Cup selection.
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