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Oct 15, 2012

Del Bosque facing selection dilemma

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque is facing selection posers in both defence and attack ahead of La Roja's World Cup qualifier against France in Madrid on Tuesday evening.

Centre-half Sergio Ramos trained alone on Sunday night as he recovers from a slight knock picked up during Friday's 4-0 win in Belarus, while Del Bosque could choose to make a change in attack - with Fernando Torres and David Villa challenging Cesc Fabregas for a starting spot.

As Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are absent through injury, Ramos missing out would be a serious blow for the World Cup holders. Real Madrid reserve Raul Albiol - who replaced his club-mate for the last 20 minutes in Minsk – is the only other specialist centre-half in the squad. Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets started at the back against Belarus, but the French are likely to pose a greater attacking threat, and Albiol could be chosen alongside Ramos, should the ex-Sevilla man recover in time.

The former Valencia defender, whose appearance in front of reporters at the official press conference on Sunday suggested he was in Del Bosque's thoughts, said he was ready to step in.

"Anyone could play on Tuesday," said Albiol. "I must be prepared. The most important thing is we get the three points because it would be an important step towards qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil. My objective is to earn more minutes and I must show what I can give, to do as well as possible so that the team wins on Tuesday."

Albiol made three appearances for Madrid at the start of the current season, playing a half in their opening day draw against Valencia, and the full 90 minutes in the 3-2 defeat to Barcelona (Supercopa first leg) and 2-1 loss at Getafe. After these games the French youngster Raphael Varane moved ahead in Real coach Jose Mourinho's pecking order.

Before Friday Albiol's last appearance was in Spain's 5-0 friendly win over Saudi Arabia in early September, and he said he appreciated the faith which Del Bosque has shown in him.

"It is early, we are only a month into the season, I have not been idle," Albiol said. "It is a vote of confidence that the boss has given me. We need to take advantage of these days to show that he was not wrong and that we are in good form."

Del Bosque's other question is who to play up front. Fabregas started against Belarus, with Villa making a late substitute appearance but as Tuesday's game is being played at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, former Atletico Madrid starlet Torres will be keen to impress on his old stomping ground.

Pedro, whose place on the wing looks assured after his hat-trick in Belarus, told reporters yesterday that Spain were lucky to have such an array of attacking options.

"I am very happy with the goals and to help the team," he said. "We are lucky to have players who can adapt. When we play with a 'false nine' it always leaves more space for the wingers. With a fixed number nine the wingers are more open."

The Barcelona player added his thoughts that France would be a stiffer test than the Belarussians. "It will be difficult," Pedro said. "They have a good team with players with a lot of weight like (Frank) Ribery and (Karim) Benzema."

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