Soldado in prime place to pip Torres to Euros

Valencia striker Roberto Soldado looks to be in prime position to deny Fernando Torres a place at Euro 2012 after earning the chance to impress the coach when world champions Spain host Venezuela in a friendly on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old returns to the national team after a five-year absence as coach Vicente del Bosque weighs up his striking options for the defence of their European title in Poland and Ukraine in June.

"I knew it would be difficult to return to the national team but at last it has happened," Soldado told reporters as he joined up with the rest of the squad on Monday.

"For a striker, it is the numbers which dictate whether you are here or not. I have scored an important number of goals and I hope I can continue to score to be with the national team.

"The competition [for a place] is very tough and there are three months left which will determine whether I will be at Euro 2012 or not. I hope I can rise to the occasion and make the most of this opportunity.

"We know how important Fernando Torres is to the team and we hope he will be at Euro 2012, but I am also going to give my all to be there too."


Torres, the scorer of the winner in the Euro 2008 final, has struggled for form since returning from injury in 2010 and Del Bosque reluctantly left him out of the squad on Friday. He has scored four goals for Chelsea this season.

"I speak to Fernando a lot. It's a difficult time for him and he was very keen to be here with us," Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina told reporters.

"His form will return, I'm sure, but it is the boss who draws up the list."

Soldado has scored 12 goals in La Liga, one behind fellow international and Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, who is probably assured of his place having helped the team to success at the World Cup in 2010.

Spain's all-time leading scorer David Villa is recovering from a broken leg and is due to return to action in April or May just ahead of the Euros. Del Bosque has already indicated the Barcelona forward will go if fit.

Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo has had an inconsistent campaign and was forced out of the Spain squad on Monday with a thigh injury which could keep him sidelined for up to four weeks, his club said in a statement.

Bilbao's 19-year-old livewire Iker Muniain is Del Bosque's other striking option against Venezuela and he could make his debut in Malaga.

Further pressure on Torres's place comes from Spain's astonishing strength in depth in the midfield, where the likes of David Silva, Juan Mata and Cesc Fabregas can move into more offensive positions when required.

Former Arsenal captain Fabregas has scored 15 goals in all competitions since leaving London to return to Barcelona in the close-season.