Injury-hit Spain to face Lithuania
Spain is feeling the pressure of a packed schedule and a string of injury absentees ahead of its European Championship qualifier against Lithuania, according to defender Sergio Ramos.
Vicente del Bosque ‘s squad is without Fernando Torres, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Jesus Navas and Pedro Rodriguez due to injury.
Ramos said the Group I matches against Lithuania on Friday in Salamanca and at Scotland on Tuesday are going to be tough, especially considering the Spanish players’ recent tough schedule.
"The calendar is tight, there are many games and much travel," Ramos said Thursday. "At the end of the day, we are not machines and we have been suffering from wear and tear. Many players are suffering."
The European champions are looking to recover the form that won them the World Cup title in South Africa earlier this year. Spain lost 2-1 to Argentina in a friendly in Buenos Aires last month.
Scotland and Lithuania top the group with four points, one more than Spain, but both teams have played an extra match. The Czech Republic and Liechtenstein are also in the group.
Spain will take on Lithuania at the 17,000-capacity El Helmantico stadium in the central city of Salamanca, and Del Bosque has praised the defensive prowess of his team’s opponents.
"Lithuania is a well-organized team. They may be without big-name players but they play very well, haven’t let in any goals and have earned four points so far," Del Bosque said.
The absence of Xavi due to tendinitis was especially disappointing for the coach.
"He has played more than 90 times for the national squad and we know he is unhappy at not being able to be here," Del Bosque said.
Defender Gerard Pique agreed, but noted Spain’s midfield depth.
"The team is not the same without Xavi and we all know what he contributes, his qualities are irreplaceable," he said. "There are players with enormous quality to replace him – he could be replaced by Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets or Xabi Alonso."
David Villa could break Raul Gonzalez’s Spain record as the scoring leader with 44 goals. Villa has 43 international goals.
"The sooner he gets those two goals, the better," Pique said. "For Spain, Villa’s current scoring phase is very important."