MADRID (AFP) –
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has given a strong indication that the Barcelona duo of Victor Valdes and David Villa will start the World Cup qualifier with Finland on Friday.
Villa’s return to form in recent weeks has been a major boost for club and country after he initially struggled to find his rhythm on his return from breaking his tibia last season.
The 31-year-old has scored in three of his last four games and Del Bosque believes he is ready to start a competitive international for the first since October 2011.
“The change in Villa is nice to see,” he told a press conference on Thursday.
“He is full of optimism just now, which is different to what he was like before. Fortunately his fitness has improved and we have the best goalscorer in the history of Spanish football back with us.”
Meanwhile, Villa himself said the game will be even more special for him as it is taking place in Gijon, where he began his career with Sporting.
“Ever since I left Sporting I have dreamt about returning to play for the home team,” he said.
“As a visiting player it is a different sensation, it is like coming back to rob your own house. So I am very excited about the game tomorrow.
“I have had a run of games playing from the start and the team has managed to win so I am happy.
“I have been looking for this consistency for a long time. I want to enjoy it and finish the season as well as I can because it has had a lot of ups and downs.”
At the other end of the field Del Bosque said that Valdes was likely to get the nod ahead of Pepe Reina and David De Gea to replace the injured Iker Casillas, but he hinted that, at just 22 years of age, De Gea could be the long-term successor to Casillas.
“We are talking about three goalkeepers of a great level that are capable in all areas,” he said.
“It is more than likely that Valdes will play although we have to think about it.
“The injury to Casillas has allowed De Gea to come and he should be an important player for the future.”
Xavi Hernandez will also miss the clash with Finland as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury, but could still make the potentially decisive match against France on Tuesday.
However, despite France and Spain being locked together on seven points from three games at the top of qualifying Group I, Del Bosque insists they cannot overlook the challenge posed by Finland.
“We are only thinking of tomorrow, that is the most important game. Afterwards we will think about France.
“Finland have good players and it won’t be easy.”Published 21 Mar 2013, 23:38 IST