In the last international break of 2014, Belarus will visit Spain with the hopes to make it a bitter afternoon for them. The Eastern Europeans already drew with Luxembourg in their only away game so far.
Spain, still behind Slovakia by three points, will look to profit from the home advantage and put some pressure on the group leaders. Without Chelsea’s stars plus Iniesta and Silva, La Roja will have a fresh and interesting squad.
Preferred Formation: 4-4-2
The coach will leave behind the sole striker system. Two of his new players for this break, Nolito and Morata, offer variety in attack. This makes him want to experiment with Silva and Iniesta’s absences.
The only problem will come in Koke’s deeper role, with his adaptation not going as expected. The creativity will have to come from Isco and whoever plays on the opposite wing.
GK: Iker Casillas
He was benched last weekend by Carlo Ancelotti. However, Vicente Del Bosque still believes the club and national captain deserves to start.
He’ll play this official match, while everything points to De Gea taking the friendly versus Germany.
Carvajal wasn’t called up because of his physical problems, making the Atlético player a sure start. Azpilicueta has enjoyed playing time for Chelsea, yet he doesn’t look like a contender. He might start against Germany instead.
CB: Gerard Piqué
Del Bosque tried the Ramos-Albiol pair this week, but he also tried his usual Piqué-Ramos duo. The Catalan’s poor form might be a reason to overlook him, still the coach has always praised him.
CB: Sergio Ramos
He missed the last international break because of injury, making him a safe bet for this game. He has played next to a variety of partners, so whoever shows up probably won’t make a difference to him.
LB: Jordi Alba
Going through his weakest form since he arrived at Barça, he should have an easier time against Belarus. He’s earned a few assists in this qualifying stage, so there’s no reason for Del Bosque to leave him out.
RM: Santi Cazorla
Santi will fight Pedro for a spot and both have equal chances to make it. None of them have had consistent playing time for their clubs, yet without Iniesta and Silva, they need to deliver. We’ll go with Cazorla.
RCM: Sergio Busquets
He had some physical problems and seems to have recovered. Unless a last-minute relapse occurs, he’ll be in the starting lineup. His work in recovering balls and starting plays will be important once again.
Vicente continues to use him further back from his ideal position. Fàbregas’ injury will force him to stay there. The experiment has worked out against smaller teams and failed with tougher ones.
Hogging all the attention at the Bernabéu, he’s gained a spot at his club and now at his national team. Iniesta and Silva’s absences certainly will help him this week. He’ll have to be the link between the midfield and the strikers.
ST: Paco Alcácer
Despite Diego Costa seen as the Spanish striker, Paco has done a lot more in four matches than Diego in seven. He’s a no brainer, with the only doubt coming from which partner he’ll have to play with.
ST: Álvaro Morata
Without Costa, and with this match being easier in theory, he’ll have a chance. Being called up for the first time, the former Real Madrid prospect has gained importance at Juventus. It will be interesting to see him connect with Alcácer.