Fernando Torres ready for action
With a ticket for the 2012 European Championship already secured, defending champion Spain can afford to focus on striker Fernando Torres to help him rediscover his firepower in a qualifying match at the Czech Republic.
Spain has qualified for next year's tournament in Poland and Ukraine with a perfect record of six victories from six games and is leading Group I with 18 points.
The Czech Republic is fighting with Scotland for a playoff spot. The Czechs have 10 points, two more than Scotland, which plays at Liechtenstein on Saturday before traveling to Spain for the final qualifier on Tuesday. The Czechs finish their campaign at Lithuania the same day.
The game could give Torres a chance to break a yearlong scoring drought with the national team.
His last goals for Spain came on Sept. 3 last year when he scored a double in a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in the opening Euro 2012 qualifier.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has made it clear that Torres will need to show improvement soon.
''In the case of Torres, he changed clubs and he's been on a not very positive run,'' Del Bosque said. ''We still believe in him, but there are others that are pressing hard for their shot, so we have to be fair.''
Del Bosque sat Torres in the stands for the first time during Spain's 6-0 rout of Liechtenstein last month, but Torres' recent improvement at Chelsea may earn him minutes.
After arriving in Prague on Thursday, Del Bosque would not be drawn on whether Torres would get a chance in the match at Sparta Prague's stadium.
''Every player has a chance to be in the starting lineup,'' Del Bosque said. ''Everyone is ready to play.''
Another striker, Alvaro Negredo of Sevilla, has left the team as doctors fear he could re-injure his left thigh muscle if he plays. Del Bosque will not replace him.
Spain is also without injured midfielders Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas.
''We've come to win here and we'll do all we can for it,'' Spain captain Iker Casillas said.
Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek has selection worries in midfield because Jaroslav Plasil of Bordeaux, who scored the only goal for the Czechs in a 2-1 loss to Spain in March, is suspended. His replacement, Marek Matejovsky of Sparta Prague, has a groin problem.
Captain Tomas Rosicky was not available for Arsenal's 2-1 loss at Tottenham on Sunday after his partner Radka Kocurova lost their unborn baby five months into her pregnancy but the playmaker has joined the Czech squad this week and will play.
''It's a huge motivation for us to succeed,'' Rosicky said Thursday. ''We'll try to surprise them tomorrow.''
To advance to the playoffs, a point from the match against Spain would be precious but the Czechs, who have been struggling since the previous 2008 European Championship, know it is a difficult task to achieve against the world and European champions.
''We know who we face,'' defender Michal Kadlec said. ''We can hardly play a stronger opponent at the moment. They have qualified but we can't expect them to travel here to lose.''
Goalkeeper Petr Cech said to play in front of the home crowd can make a difference.
''I hope that our fans will come to support us,'' the Chelsea player said. ''We will need that.''
Cech returned to the squad after missing a 2-2 away draw against Scotland in the previous Sept. 3 qualifier after injuring a knee ligament in training with Chelsea.
If Scotland wins both its remaining matches, the Czechs would need four points from their last two games to advance because they had better results head to head with Scotland.