Spain to face Saudi Arabia in World Cup warm-up

September 6th, 2012 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Sep 6 (IANS) The Spanish national team is to prepare for the first game of their World Cup qualifying campaign when they entertain Saudi Arabia in the city of Pontevedra Friday night.

Spain coach will want his men to give a better performance than that in their last match when they were disappointed with a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in August, reports Xinhua.

While that result can be put down to the lack of fitness following Spain’s retention of the European Championship in June, the players have now had three matches of their domestic season and should be approaching their best form.

Xavi Hernandez returned to the side and he and Iker Casillas can expect a good reception after being named as the joint winners of the Prince of Asturias Award for Sport Wednesday. That award highlighted their good relationship and friendship, despite the rivalries between their clubs, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

UEFA Player of the Year, Andres Iniesta, should also return to action and it is yet to be seen if David Villa will make his first start after breaking his leg in December. Villa missed out on the European Championship and has been slowly working his way into form with Barcelona. Del Bosque is likely to start with Villa on the bench, but the striker, who has scored 51 international goals, will no doubt get into the action at some stage of the match.

With Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente being left out of this squad, Roberto Soldado, who was absent in the summer, will be looking to once again vindicate his position as an international player, while Benat Extebarria could get some time in central midfield.

Meanwhile the continued injury to Carles Puyol, who has a broken cheek, means that Gerard Pique will almost certainly partner Sergio Ramos in the heart of the Spain defence, although Del Bosque will also give some time to Real Madrid’s Raul Albiol.

Spain are clear favourites to defeat the Saudis, but the most important thing for Del Bosque will be to see his side give a good display before flying to Georgia where they begin their defence of the World Cup Tuesday.

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