Madrid, June 6 (IANS) Spain chief coach Julen Lopetegui has decided to hedge his bets on Dani Carvajal’s injury and will fly to Russia with 25 footballers rather than the 23 allowed in the final squads for the FIFA World Cup.
Although the final date to confirm the squad lists for the forthcoming World Cup finals was June 4, coaches are allowed to make changes to those squads until 24 hours before their sides kick off their first group game, reports Efe.
With right-back Carvajal still working to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered in the Champions League final against Liverpool, Lopetegui has decided to include Real Madrid defenders Jesus Vallejo and midfielder Rodri Fernandez, who spent last season at Villarreal, on the plane to Russia.
Although Carvajal has spent over a week nursing his injury, Tuesday’s press day for the Spain squad showed that he is still having problems walking with ease and with Spain’s World Cup debut against Portugal just nine days away, Lopetegui is taking cover in case he fails to recover.
The Spain coach would probably stick with Carvajal if he is only likely to miss the first World Cup game, but if it looks he could be sidelined for longer, Rodri or Vallejo could have a chance.
Vallejo is a central defender and his inclusion in the squad would allow Nacho Fernandez or Cesar Azpilicueta to cover at right back, however, the 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Sunday showed that the Spanish side lacks a natural replacement for defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets, who missed the game with a stomach bug.
Rodri is comfortable in the holding midfield role, and given that Spain already seem to have plenty of cover in their squad, he could be the one to get the nod if Lopetegui decides he can’t wait for Carvajal.
If he had to finally miss out on Russia, it would be extremely hard on Carvajal, who in 2016 also missed the European Championship due to injury.