Vincente Del Bosque has today announced Spain's preliminary World Cup squad, with Athletic Bilbao defensive midfielder Ander Iturraspe and Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal the only debutants in an experienced 30-man squad.
Iker Casillas was always going to be picked as the number one goalkeeper heading into the World Cup, despite another disappointing season at Real Madrid.
He is joined by Pepe Reina, currently on loan at Napoli, and David De Gea, who is one of the few players able to hold his head high after a shocking season at Manchester United. Víctor Valdés' knee injury ruled him out for up to seven months, so he was never in contention, whilst Diego López has been repeatedly overlooked despite keeping Casillas out of the team at Real Madrid.
Jordi Alba of Barcelona and Alberto Moreno of Sevilla will contest the left-back spot. Alba has struggled with injury this season, whilst Moreno is unlikely to be a Sevilla player next season, with Chelsea reportedly in the race for his signature.
Both offer pace and technique going forward, whilst 21-year-old Moreno is the more natural defender of the two. Moreno is in better form heading into the tournament, so it will be interesting to see who gets the nod to start against the Netherlands.
Right-back has transformed from an area of weakness for Spain to an area where they boast three quality defenders. Real Madrid debutant Carvajal will compete with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta and Atlético's Juanfran for a place in the final 23.
Álvaro Arbeloa, often maligned as the weak-point in the Spanish squad, has been left out after being largely overtaken at club-level by Carvajal. Injury also meant Arbeloa has only recently returned to training, although even if he was fit he would have struggled to make the squad.
Spain's first-choice pairing at centre-back is likely to be Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, and Barcelona's Gerard Piqué. Raúl Albiol, who has had an impressive first season at Napoli is the backup to Piqué and Ramos, whilst Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez is also able to operate as a centre-back and has done so repeatedly for Munich this season.
The versatility of Martinez has cost Iñigo Martínez a place in the 30-man squad. The Real Sociedad man bears a similarity to Piqué and his time at international level will surely come.
The Spanish central midfielders read like a who's who of modern greats. The Barcelona faction of Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets are accompanied by Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso, Manchester City's David Silva, Arsenal's Santi Cazorla and Manchester United's Juan Mata.
Thiago Alcántara is rewarded for his form at Bayern Munich, whilst Atlético Madrid's Koke will look to continue a marvellous season at club level. Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Iturraspe has been one of his club's standout players this season and arguably the best defensive midfielder in La Liga.
Although his chances of making the final 23 are slim, Del Bosque has rightfully recognised his fine season. Athletic teammate Ander Herrera is unlucky to miss out, whilst Isco has been dropped presumably due to his lack of game time at Real Madrid this season. Barcelona winger Pedro and Manchester City flyer Jesus Navas will provide pace out wide.
Up front, Fernando Torres can consider himself very lucky to be included in the squad. His reputation has definitely preceded him with his selection after another disjointed season at Chelsea.
Atlético duo David Villa and Diego Costa are included, with Costa snubbing Brazil to pledge his allegiance to Spain. He will be a great addition to the Spanish squad, although he will have to adapt to play in Spain's tiki-taka style.
Alvaro Negredo started brilliantly at Manchester City, although his form curtailed after picking up a shoulder injury. Fellow behemoth Fernando Llorente joins the squad fresh from Juventus' Serie A winning side.
Whilst Costa is certainly on the plane, Del Bosque is only likely to take a maximum of three forwards, so the Spanish strikers will be sweating over their selection. One player who won't be appearing is Roberto Soldado, who paid the price for a poor debut season at Tottenham.
Although the pre-competition hype has backed Brazil and Argentina, you would never write the Spaniards off, especially with the arrival of Costa. The final 23 players to travel to Brazil will be announced on May 25, but regardless of who is cut, the Spanish squad once again looks imperious in every position. Bring on June 13!.
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