Spain drops David Villa for final World Cup qualifiers

Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush cradles the ball away from New York City FC forward David Villa as Impact defender Kyle Fisher looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

MADRID (AP) Veteran striker David Villa has been dropped by Spain for its last World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.

Coach Julen Lopetegui recalled the 35-year-old Villa last month after a three-year absence from the national side. But the New York City striker played only the final minutes of a 3-0 win over Italy before he was sidelined by a muscle injury during training. That meant he missed Spain’s 8-0 rout of Lichtenstein.

On Friday, Lopetegui recalled Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi, Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno, and Napoli forward Jose Callejon to his squad.

Spain leads Europe Group G with 22 points after winning seven and drawing one of its eight qualifiers. Italy is next with 19 points. Albania is third with 13, followed by Israel with nine.

Spain hosts Albania on Oct. 6 and visits Israel three days later.

The group winner qualifies for the tournament in Russia next summer. The second-place finisher must hope to go through a playoff.