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Mar 25, 2013

Monreal: Spain have no room for error

Nacho Monreal has said Spain have "no margin for error" in Tuesday's crucial World Cup 2014 qualifier against France.

• Stats: Jordi Alba big loss

Friday's surprising 1-1 draw with Finland, bottom of Group I, in Gijon, coupled with France's 3-1 home win over Georgia, means the World Cup holders will almost certainly need to win in Paris to get back on track for automatic qualification.

Arsenal full-back Monreal, tipped to replace the injured Jordi Alba in the starting line-up, said La Roja needed to win.

"It is too early to talk about finals, but there is no margin for error," he said. "To lose there would leave us five points behind France. We must win so that our destiny remains in our own hands, as it still is now."

Monreal - or Chelsea full-back Cesar Azpilicueta - for Alba will be one of at least four changes made by Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.

Key playmakers Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso will return after resting hamstring and groin injuries, while Barca's Pedro Rodriguez should replace the suspended David Silva.

Monreal said he was ready to give his all if he got the chance to win an 11th cap for Spain. "It is a very important game," he added. "It could be that Jordi's absence has opened a door for me, but we do not know who is going to play.

"I have a chance. I am training to perform at the maximum level because there is a lot on the line in this game."

Whoever plays at left-back for Spain is likely to come up against France's in-form Mathieu Valbuena, who impressed as a substitute in the 1-1 draw in Madrid in October and scored one and set up the other two goals in Friday's win.

Monreal said he was well aware of the threat Valbuena could pose. "He is a big influence on France's play," he explained. "It is difficult to stop him because he dribbles well, and can go either way. He likes to play on the right, but also comes inside."

Meanwhile, Monreal's team-mate Gerard Pique told radio station COPE that, having taken the lead through Sergio Ramos, Spain should not have got caught out by a late Finland equaliser.

"We did not play badly against Finland, but we should have created more goal chances," he said. "We have our style of play but, at 1-0 in our favour, maybe we should have used our heads a bit more."

The slip-up against Finland did not mean Spain were going to change the style that had brought success in the last three international tournaments, Pique stressed.

"The idea does not change in Paris," he said. "We could start knocking long balls into the box and maybe win that way, but that is not our style. I would not be proud of that."

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