Villa: Painful memories to spur Spain on

MADRID - Spain can avoid the problems that have beset their qualification campaigns for recent major tournaments by beating Turkey twice to all but assure their place at the 2010 World Cup, striker David Villa said.

The European champions needed to playoff against Norway to qualify for Euro 2004 and took a similar route to the 2006 World Cup by beating Slovakia in another playoff.

Their successful Euro 2008 campaign had an inauspicious start back in late 2006 that almost led to the departure of then-coach Luis Aragones.

This time round, Vicente del Bosque has steered the side to an impressive four wins from four as Spain top Group Five with a maximum 12 points, four ahead of the second-placed Turks.

"We have to win the two games against Turkey and see how the other results go. In other campaigns we have suffered a lot but we are in a good position this time and are close to qualifying," Villa said.

"The sooner we achieve that, the better it will be for us to prepare for the Confederations Cup (in June)."

Spain are unbeaten in 29 matches stretching back to a 1-0 home defeat against Romania in November 2006, but Del Bosque has some problems to contend with before Saturday's match at the Bernabeu, and the return in Istanbul four days later.

Villa, David Silva, Sergio Ramos and Xavi all joined up with injury worries and Gerard Pique has been out with a fever. Though all of the squad trained on Wednesday morning match-fitness doubts remain.

With Andres Iniesta out injured the composition of the midfield is Del Bosque's main concern, when he has to decide whether to go with two wingers or a tighter more defensive line up.


The poor form of Fenerbahce and Galatasaray, who supply 10 players to the Turkey squad, is one of coach Fatih Terim's key problems.

"You've got to get your heads up. You must forget the league and concentrate immediately on the Spain games. It is clear from your eyes that you haven't been sleeping," Turkish media reported Terim as telling players from those clubs.

Terim, who led Turkey to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, adopted a characteristically bullish tone though.

"Fear has not been in our dictionary for years. Even if we lose we will play without holding back," he told reporters.

Bayern Munich midfielder Hamit Altintop is set to miss Saturday's game due to injury.

Probable teams:

Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Juanito, Joan Capdevila; Santi Cazorla, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, David Silva; David Villa, Fernando Torres

Turkey: Volkan Demirel; Gokhan Gonul, Sedat Bayrak, Emre Asik, Hakan Kadir Balta; Sabri Sarioglu, Mehmet Aurelio, Emre Belozoglu, Arda Turan; Tuncay Sanli, Nihat Kahveci