Cesar Azpilicueta hopeful of making World Cup despite Spain omission
Cesar Azpilicueta says he has not received an explanation for his absence from Julen Lopetegui's latest Spain squad, but the Chelsea defender insisted that he has not given up hope of earning a place at next summer's World Cup.
Chelsea teammate Pedro Rodriguez and Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal were also left out of Lopetegui's 23-man selection for friendlies against Costa Rica and Russia this month, while Real Sociedad full-back Alvaro Odriozola was preferred to Azpilicueta as an option for the right side of defence.
Lopetegui justified his more experimental squad by saying he wants to give less established names an opportunity to impress ahead of the World Cup, but Azpilicueta remains hopeful he will be called upon when the tournament comes around.
Asked in an interview with RMC Sport if Lopetegui had contacted him to explain his omission, Azpilicueta said: "I haven't had any news. There is a lot of competition for places in Spain. I know my job is to do the best I can. My aim is to be at the World Cup and I have to keep working hard."
Azpilicueta has been a hugely consistent performer for Chelsea in recent years and has emerged as a firm favourite of head coach Antonio Conte, playing every minute of Chelsea's 49 Premier League matches since he took over at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016.
Conte has mostly deployed Azpilicueta on the right of a three-man central defence in Chelsea's 3-4-3 system, while Spain under Lopetegui more regularly play with a back four.
But Azpilicueta insists that occupying a different position at club level has not hurt his chances of international selection.
"Last year, I played in the same position for my club and I was in the squad," he added. "We even sometimes play like that with the national team. But I'm not going to think about the circumstances, I'm going to do my work with Chelsea. There is time before the World Cup, and I'm going to wait for the call from the national team coach."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.