Spain leave out Monreal, Pedro, Azpilicueta from squad; call up Moreno
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has left Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal and Chelsea pair Pedro Rodriguez and Cesar Azpilicueta out of his squad for this month's friendlies, but brought back Liverpool's Alberto Moreno.
Spain host Costa Rica in Malaga on Nov. 11, before taking on Russia three days later in St Petersburg.
Monreal, Azpilicueta and Pedro all started in Spain's final World Cup qualifier, a 1-0 win at Israel last month.
The 25-year-old Moreno's call-up is his first under Lopetegui. He made his Spain debut in October 2013 under former coach Vicente del Bosque and last played for the national team in 2014.
Moreno has been a regular in Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side this season, making eight Premier League appearances and six in the Champions League.
"The decision not to take Monreal and Pedro is just a technical one," Lopetegui said in Friday's news conference. "In order to prepare as best as possible for the World Cup, we need to see other players that could form the list of 23. We have included the bulk of players that have been with us in qualifying but we want to see other players that could be part of the group.
"Moreno is a starter at Liverpool and has been playing at a very high level. Alberto fits in to what we want from a left-back. I know him well as I coached him at youth level [Spain under-21s]. It's the right time to see him in action and draw some conclusions."
Lazio winger Luis Alberto has earned his first call-up after a strong start to the season that has seen him score three goals and set up five more in 11 Serie A starts.
"He has been playing at a high level for a while now at Lazio," Lopetegui said of the 25-year-old. "He came close before to being included. We're looking forward to seeing him closely. We like his style of play."
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta and Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata both missed Spain's final two World Cup qualifiers with hamstring injuries but have recovered and been named in the group. Lopetegui again omitted New York City FC striker David Villa from the squad.
The 35-year-old was recalled to the Spain squad for the first time in three years in August but sustained an adductor injury with the national team and did not feature in last month's qualifiers.
"We didn't select him this time but that doesn't mean that we don't consider every player," Lopetegui said.
The 51-year-old said the upcoming friendlies are very important in preparing for the World Cup and is delighted the game against Costa Rica in Malaga's La Rosaleda stadium will be sold out.
"It's really the best way to prepare for the World Cup," he said. "We have to make the most of the few games we have and what better way do it than by having a packed stadium."
Spain qualified for the World Cup by winning nine of their 10 group games and finished ahead of Italy in their pool.
"You have to learn to walk before you can run," Lopetegui said, stressing the need for the players to keep their feet on the ground. "We have to be enthusiastic and the best way to prepare for a top aim is to look at the short term. We face strong rivals in our next two games and we have to prepare for them in the best possible way. To think about long-term aims doesn't help."
Lopetegui took the opportunity to send his support to Santi Cazorla as he continues his battle to recover from a serious ankle injury.
The Arsenal playmaker, who has undergone eight right ankle operations in the space of a year, told Marca on Friday that he hopes to return to action in January.
"These are the other football stories that no one sees," Lopetegui said. "It's tough but I'm certain that he will be able to turn it around. Santi's case will have a good ending. I'm sure he will return to play football."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.