Five months before the World Cup in Qatar, Spain faced four demanding Nations League matches that were very scarred as it was the end of the season for the players, who were carrying the burden of a strenuous schedule. The need to distribute efforts created the ideal setting for Luis Enrique to test his conviction that he can put together two starting teams without suffering. The decision has provided the leadership of the group with the most results, two wins and two draws, which game. The confidence of the coach from Gijón in the competitiveness of the squad is such that he bluntly assures that few coaches enjoy the privilege of being able to form two different line-ups with guarantees. “Based on the confidence we have in all the players, we have distributed the minutes. We have not been inferior to any of the three teams”, he summed up on Sunday in the press room at La Rosaleda. From this rotation and the game played, certainties and doubts emerge for the World Cup. In September, with the last two games of the League of Nations against Switzerland, in Malaga, and Portugal, in Braga, Luis Enrique will measure the internationals for the last time before giving the list for the World Cup.
Unai Simón as the basis of the style
The Athletic goalkeeper leaves this call consolidated as number one in Luis Enrique’s preferences. He has played all the games and the coach, faced with some errors in kicks, has reaffirmed him as the first foundation of the style of play with the ball. Rarely has the coach been seen as fundamentalist and dogmatic with the role of goalkeeper-player that he assigns to the goalkeepers. With Robert Sánchez and David Raya, cut from the same pattern in footwork, the shortlist seems clear with a view to the World Cup.
The risk of advanced defense
The chances granted to the opponents for playing with the advanced defense have become a classic of this team. No matter the entity of the rival, most teams manage to generate transitions to the counterattack that put Unai Simón at risk. In these four games it has been the Czech Republic that has best exploited that defensive vulnerability. Here the moment of the season in which the matches have been played has been noted because the faulty pressure from forwards and midfielders favored the contras. Those concessions can be lethal in the World Cup. Luis Enrique seems to be clear that the two right-backs for Qatar are Azpilicueta and Carvajal. Among the centrals, Pau Torres and Laporte, absent from this list, are fixed. Íñigo Martínez has taken a step forward and Eric García, as is the case with Unai Simón, is almost untouchable for the coach due to his ability to get the ball. Diego Llorente is the fifth central defender who can enter if FIFA finally authorizes a list that can contain 24 to 26 players. On the left side, Alba is indisputable if he is fit and the other place will be fought for by Gayá and Marcos Alonso.
Gavi, a youth leader
The interior of Barcelona has been the great protagonist of this concentration. Luis Enrique fired the spotlight on him when he realized that he was a stranger with the ball at his feet even for the people closest to him. And the boy has exploded with the ball showing a repertoire that he had barely shown. To date, he stood out for his guerrilla character and in these four games, three as a starter, he has been the coolest player in terms of legs and head. He is emerging as one of the two interiors that will accompany Busquets. With Pedri, it is most likely that a midfield with the stamp of Barcelona will be formed. Rodri is unquestionable as replacement for Busquets and Koke and Soler are heading to the World Cup as favorites to enter the list. Thiago and Mikel Merino also enter the pools. As with Diego Llorente, both may fear room if Luis Enrique stretches the list to 26 players.
Morata is the nine
There is no doubt for Luis Enrique that Morata will be his nine in Qatar. Above the goals, he has not stopped praising his work in pressure and his ability to receive from behind and play for the interiors that come from the face. With Unai Simón he has been the only player who has played these four games. At Morata’s escorts there are applicants who seem fixed such as Sarabia, Ferran, Oyarzabal, also dropped in this call, and Dani Olmo. Gerard Moreno, another absent from this list due to injury, enters into a tough fight with Marco Asensio, who has vindicated himself in the times he has played. Yeremi Pino is also on Luis Enrique’s radar as the player to open close matches.
The hope of Ansu Fati
If he doesn’t have problems with injuries and recovers his level, he will not only be on the list, but he will be the player with whom Luis Enrique will try to make a leap in quality that will allow Spain to resolve matches better. Luis Enrique has pampered him and has protected him at the same time that he has wanted him to acquire concepts in the video sessions. He has not played any game because a relapse would have generated a confrontation with his club.
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