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Jun 11, 2013

Del Bosque coy on Confed Cup starters

The Spanish national team prepared for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland on Monday at the Red Bull Arena, New Jersey, USA - six days before they head to Brazil to take part in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Vicente Del Bosque says David Villa will start up front for Spain in Tuesday night's friendly against Ireland, but that does not mean the Barcelona attacker is necessarily first choice for the upcoming Confederations Cup.

Villa, who is Spain's all-time record goalscorer, missed Euro 2012 with a broken leg, allowing Cesc Fabregas to impress in a 'false nine' role as La Roja claimed the trophy. Fernando Torres - top scorer in that tournament despite only starting two games - and Roberto Soldado are also options for Del Bosque for the tournament in Brazil.

The veteran coach, who spent much of his pre-match press conference attempting to play down rumours of a feud between Spain and Real Madrid team-mates Iker Casillas and Alvaro Arbeloa, said that he was still mulling his various attacking options, while pointing out that defensive security was just as important in his thoughts.

"Villa will be a starter against Ireland," Del Bosque said. "We will decide then when the tournament starts. I have different formulas, and they are all valid. Although Spain has been considered an attacking team who gets a lot of goals, the success in short tournaments was based on our defensive system."

That system tended to include Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso in a deep midfield 'double pivot', which although criticised by some in Spain as too defensive, has seen the team through all seven knock-out games at World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 without conceding a goal.

With Alonso currently recovering from a groin operation, Javi Martinez is the closest to a 'like-for-like' replacement, although Del Bosque suggested we might not see the 'double pivot' in every game.

"[Alonso's] absence is important because Spain has based its play for a long time on him and Busquets," he said. "The team's play has turned around them, as much in attack as in defence. They gave a calm base to the national team, but Xabi is not here now and we have other more attacking formulas, as we saw the other day against Haiti, with Javi Martinez in midfield and [Santi] Cazorla and Cesc ahead of him. There are others - more conservative - that we can use on other occasions. We are not crying for Xabi because we have guaranteed solutions."

Del Bosque is expected to field a strong team against the Irish - with Victor Valdes in goal, Arbeloa at right-back, and Barcelona trio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta starting in midfield. Chelsea's Juan Mata, Manchester City's David Silva and Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez are all options for one place beside Villa and Fabregas in attack. Gerard Pique - likely to resume his partnership with Sergio Ramos at centre-back - said Ireland would be another test of how well Spain were dealing with 'evolving' as a side.

"Ireland have a great team, with some expert footballers like [Robbie] Keane," Pique said. "It is a test, like the duel against Haiti, as we look for our [best] side. The more you have won in the past, the more you must renew the team and always keep improving. And the manager is doing that."

With the game taking place at New York's Yankee Stadium, the Barcelona defender has described the prospect of playing a 'soccer' game at the venue as an honour.

"We are happy to come and play in the U.S., where football is not so well known, because it helps to promote it," Pique said. "I have never played on a baseball field, although I have in a few American Football pitches, but we will be comfortable if the grass is okay. It is an honour for us to play in a ground as mythical as the Camp Nou or the Bernabeu."

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