MADRID - Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is likely to find his selections influenced by injury before the European champions host Chile in a friendly on Wednesday. Euro 2008 mainstays Andres Iniesta and David Silva are long-term layoffs while several others are doubtful. When he unveiled his squad last week Del Bosque promised not to force anyone to play a fixture squeezed into a busy programme of club football. Fernando Torres of Liverpool and Daniel Guiza of Fenerbahce have just returned after injury so the surprise call-up of Fernando Llorente could see the Athletic Bilbao striker given his debut at Villarreal's Madrigal. The lanky 23-year-old had a hand in the first and scored the second as Bilbao beat Osasuna 2-0 on Sunday, making it three goals in his last three outings. Forward Juan Mata, 20, was less of a surprise debutant in the squad, having carved a niche as partner to Spain striker David Villa with Valencia. He has five league goals this term but faces competition from the more established Santi Cazorla and Albert Riera. Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas, who has had to play second fiddle to Barca duo Xavi and Iniesta in recent matches, may also get an opportunity in midfield. ALBIOL CHANCE Experienced defenders Carles Puyol of Barcelona and Juanito of Real Betis are carrying knocks and that gives Valencia's Raul Albiol, 23, another opportunity. Del Bosque's side top World Cup qualifying Group Five with four wins out of four and are unbeaten in 27 matches since losing a friendly against Romania 1-0 in Cadiz in November 2006. They have never lost to Chile, winning five and drawing once in six meetings. Chile will be playing their first game since the 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Argentina last month. The visitors are without several players involved in the domestic championship playoffs, full back Gary Medel (Universidad Catolica), midfielder Roberto Cerededa (Colo Colo), forward Jean Beausejour (O'Higgins) and defender Marco Estrada (Universidad de Chile). The issue upset coach Marcelo Bielsa, who told the national federation he wanted a full-strength squad in Spain but the clubs refused to co-operate. Bielsa has done well to remould the squad in his one year in charge, bringing in a number of young locally-based players at the expense of European-based individuals like David Pizarro and Luis Jimenez. Pizarro refuses to play while Jimenez threw a tantrum after being left on the bench earlier this year. Mercurial playmaker Jorge Valdivia has been given another chance. Last year he was banned for 10 internationals for indiscipline at the Copa America and was then sent off against Brazil in September.
18 November 2008
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