Spain in danger of being undercooked

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Spain are bidding to become the first team to retain a European Championship title, but an already difficult task has been made tougher by late arrivals.

Spain’s success over last four years has had a lot to do with the success of Barcelona and this season’s travails could have an effect on their ability to defend their title at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

Vicente del Bosque has not been able to fully exploit the warm-up fixtures set up for his side due to both Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao players joining up with the squad late.

They were given the time off because both sides were competing in the Copa del Rey final and Del Bosque decided to give them a period of rest before joining the squad.

The first friendly they took part in was the win over China at he weekend and it was a win, but was not entirely convincing against a side far inferior to them - it took a very late David Silva strike to break the deadlock.

Xavi managed half a game, as did Andres Iniesta, and while the hypnotic possession football was there, they lacked the cutting edge that has made them world and European champions.

While Barca’s players will have no trouble once again establishing the almost telepathic understanding they have in midfield, but it will not be quite the same for those members of the squad who play for other sides.

The triumvirate of Xavi, Iniesta and David Villa was the most dangerous aspect of Spain’s attacking game, but the loss of the latter means a new connection needs to be built in the final third with another striker - they may have left it too late.

Most payers in the squad will have played together often enough for it not it be an issue, but key absences of Villa and Puyol have had a knock-on effect whereby new personnel have been drafted into positions that have been almost exclusive the injured pair in the last two years.

Add these injury losses to that fact that other key players have only just arrived and you could say Spain are in danger of being undercooked.

It sounds ridiculous to say at the end of another long season for most of the participants, but unfamiliarity with your teammates is equally as big an issue as fatigue when you need to win three games in only week or so.

The Copa del Rey final was a fine prize for the Catalan club, but a bittersweet prize having lost their La Liga crown to Real Madrid and Champions League title to an against all odds Chelsea triumph.

It was after the defeat to Chelsea that Pep Guardiola announced he would be stepping down as manager at Camp Nou, which compounded an already deflating period for the club.

Del Bosque will have a job on his hands in trying to coax his most important players through tiredness and a season tinged with disappointment.

When they are aiming to do that which has never been done, Spain’s disjointed preparations could have put paid to their hopes.

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