Luis Enrique is in no doubt Spain can compete with the very best in the world after watching his side cruise past the Czech Republic 2-0 in the Nations League on Sunday.

Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia were on target in each half as La Roja moved top of Group A2 following Portugal's 1-0 defeat to Switzerland.

The win, which stretched Spain's unbeaten run to eight games, means their progress to the Nations League finals could be sealed before their final group game against Portugal.

Should they beat Switzerland in their penultimate game and Portugal lose to the Czech Republic, Spain will seal their place in the tournament.

Luis Enrique was pleased with his side's display at La Rosaleda in Malaga, yet acknowledged there is room for improvement.

"I am very satisfied, how can I not be?" he said in a media conference.

"The rival has shown how good they are, in all aspects. We have been quite good, although we lacked some things.

"The atmosphere was wonderful, with lots of cheering and respect for the anthem of the rival. I hope it repeats itself and serves as an example.

"We are leaders and we have been good in general. Ask the rivals what they feel when playing with us. Surely we will compete [against anyone]."

Marco Asensio was particularly bright for Spain, teeing up Soler's goal to move level with Jordi Alba as the joint-highest goal creator under Luis Enrique's leadership (seven assists).

He played more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch, and Luis Enrique says the fact he is not a regular starter at Real Madrid is not an issue.

"I always called him up when I saw him doing well," he said. "Now he has been playing less. We like him and he knows it. There are no doubts with him."

Unai Simon made important saves from Vaclav Cerny and Jan Kuchta before Soler's opener, with Luis Enrique pleased at his goalkeeper's decisiveness. 

"He chose well in decision-making," he added. "He gives us a lot with the ball in aerial aspects. He has been good.

"It gives me a lot of peace of mind, and I am the one who makes decisions. He has saved us and that's what the goalkeeper is for."

Luis Enrique cited the struggles of France in the Nations League as debates continue as to the strength of Spain's World Cup credentials.

Spain play their final Nations League fixture of this window on Sunday, at home to Czech Republic, having picked up just five points from three games.

A pair of draws with Portugal and Czech Republic preceded a narrow 1-0 victory over strugglers Switzerland.

Luis Enrique defended his team selection and knowledge of football after the latter win, and the Spain coach again went on the front foot when asked about what La Roja's Nations League term meant for Qatar 2022.

"It's not about what I understand or don't understand. It's about looking at things with perspective. Nobody is interested in the other results of Group A," he told reporters. 

"If someone expects us to win every game then they do not know what modern football is.

"Look at the struggles of France, champion of the world and Nations League – we are not different. But we are a great team that can beat any rival, that's for sure."

As for who is the favourite for the World Cup, Luis Enrique finds it hard to look past two South American giants.

"I see Argentina above the rest and Brazil too, well above the rest," he added.

Alvaro Morata also came in for special praise from Luis Enrique, who believes the striker is the best defensive forward on the continent.

"All wingers can play as a nine. The strikers that I have brought not all of them can play as a winger," he continued.

"Morata can. I am not going to compare players but on a defensive level, no one beats Morata in Europe. He has an intelligence when it comes to pressing and physical conditions beyond any doubt.

"Then on top of that with the ball he has been very good, he has given us superiority. We want those who participate to know that they have an offensive side and another clear defensive one.

"With us if they don't do the defensive work, we can't be compact."

Spain boss Luis Enrique was in a prickly mood as he defended his team's performance after a 1-0 win over Switzerland in the Nations League on Thursday.

Pablo Sarabia scored the lone goal of the match in the 13th minute, getting on the end of Marcos Llorente's driven pass across the penalty area for a simple tap-in after a quick regain of possession.

That Sarabia's goal came in that scenario spoke to the nature of Spain's possession over the 90 minutes, with Switzerland firing just as many shots with 34 per cent of the ball in comparison to La Roja's 66 per cent.

When asked on Diego Llorente's second start in three games, after making only three appearances since 2020 coming into this international window, Luis Enrique went on the front foot both on selection and approach.

"I know a lot about football and he [Llorente] comes because he is among the best," 'Lucho' said. "He has played continuously. Both him and Pau [Torres]. They found [Sergio] Busquets many times, which is important.

"Marco Asensio has given us things. Morata has been spectacular and with either as our number nine, they have put us favourable scenarios.

"Yes, when they pressure us, they take us to one side of the pitch and we don't have solutions. When you do it very well you can hit a ball up to the forward, and we alter their pressure.

"We are good there too, but it is not our identity. Our identity is to play with the ball. In these games, I insist. You have to have personality to play."

 

Much like in the Euro 2020 quarter-final, Switzerland were able to create specific problems in transition, while remaining compact in defensive phases to largely deny Spain sustainable avenues to goal.

It has been a running theme for Luis Enrique's side in this start to the Nations League, where high volumes of possession did not translate to dominance in shot volume and quality in draws against Portugal and the Czech Republic.

The 52-year-old Spain boss pointed to Switzerland's quality as a team and their record at home – where they were previously unbeaten in a competitive game since 2014 – to validate his own team's performance.

"Switzerland are in the World Cup and will give us problems," Enrique said. "For me the mistake is not having the ball in the opposite end of the field. We defend with the ball.

"The result conditions everything. This is how football works. This team had 23 matches without losing an official match at home. Winning away is very difficult. It has cost, how could it be otherwise.

"The game is conditioned by the result. I'm happy for the spirit of the players and their attitude. It is a positive match that gives us the possibility to still depend on ourselves.

"Switzerland have been undefeated for eight years, 23 official games without losing at home and we had the opportunity to beat them."

Luis Enrique acknowledged Spain have "many things to improve" on after La Roja were fortunate to draw against the Czech Republic.

Gavi, aged 17 years and 304 days, became the youngest ever player to score for Spain as he curled in to cancel out Jakub Pesek's fourth-minute opener in Prague.

The Barcelona midfielder's strike also meant Spain have scored in 16 straight games in all competitions, only twice achieving such longer streaks in history.

Jan Kutcha then again edged Czech Republic ahead in the Nations League encounter as he chipped over the onrushing Unai Simon in the second half.

But there was to be late drama as Inigo Martinez's 90th-minute header snatched a point for Spain, who sit two points behind Group A2 joint-leaders Czech Republic and Portugal after two games.

With just one team progressing to the Nations League finals, Luis Enrique was glad to pick up a point but urged his side to improve.

Asked whether the stalemate would keep the critics quiet, the Spain coach told reporters: "Noise is the most beautiful thing in the world of football. I know what I play, I know where I'm going. 

"There are many things to improve. But the best thing about drawing is that the rival does not add three points.

"The important thing is that the rival does not escape us."

Luis Enrique was also quick to heap praise on teenage star Gavi after yet another fine performance in midfield.

"I know Gavi very well, I've been watching videos for five years of him. If there was any player who we wanted in that position in the first half, it was him," he added. 

"Either he shoots or he gets into the area, and that conviction is unstoppable."

Inigo Martinez scored a late equaliser as Spain salvaged a 2-2 draw in the Nations League with the Czech Republic.

Luis Enrique vowed to rotate after Spain's opening Group A2 stalemate with Portugal and made eight changes in Prague, where Jakub Pesek struck after just four minutes.

Kuchta nudged Jaroslav Silhavy's side ahead again in the second half after Gavi's first-half equaliser, before Martinez popped up in the 90th minute to snatch a point.

The stalemate left Spain three points Group A2 joint-leaders Czech Republic and Portugal, who eased past Switzerland on Sunday.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique was quick to praise the team spirit and support in Seville as he suggested he will rotate following the 1-1 Nations League draw with Portugal.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring after 25 minutes on Thursday, becoming La Roja's joint-seventh highest scorer in history alongside Emilio Butragueno with 26 goals.

Spain dominated for large parts of the proceedings in their Group A2 opener, but substitute Ricardo Horta scored with eight minutes remaining to ensure the spoils were shared.

Czech Republic are the next opponents for Luis Enrique's side on Sunday and the Spain boss vowed to rotate to evaluate all members of his squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

"I have suffered more than usual," he told reporters after the game. "I was seeing that it was difficult to keep up with the rhythm of the 90 minutes and that the victory could escape us.

"But I think the team has been good. The players have coped with the heat and fatigue of the season with great determination. We are going to use all the players [in the upcoming games].

"The atmosphere, the public was superb and the attitude of my players as well. I like the team spirit. Now it's time to recover and we'll see what we can improve on.

"The idea of ​​competing throughout the game penalised us. It's difficult to keep up with the pressure for 90 minutes, but in general I'm satisfied.

"In fact, overall, I'm more than satisfied and I'm sure when I see it, I'll be even happier."

Luis Enrique was quick to hail the influence of Morata, while he defended his decision to leave Ansu Fati as an unused substitute.

"We could have won and we could have lost," he continued. "He is good in this team and everywhere, he is a player who has a goal and although he is not a player with stratospheric figures, everything he gives us is very good.

"Ansu is coming to help us in the long term, I like what I see in training but he still doesn't have the rhythm to help us in everything he wants, and it's normal.

"But I'm the coach and you have to trust me there."

Ricardo Horta scored a late equaliser as Portugal and Spain opened their Nations League campaigns with a 1-1 draw on Thursday.

Spain were defeated in the final by France in last year's competition, but entered the 2022 edition after four straight wins.

Morata fired Spain into a first-half lead as he became the joint-seventh highest scorer in La Roja's history with his 26th strike in all competitions.

Portugal offered little in response until Horta popped up with eight minutes remaining to steal a draw in the Group A2 opener.

Gavi whipped narrowly wide in the opening exchanges, while Rafael Leao – making his first start for Portugal – blasted over at the other end.

Morata opened the scoring after 23 minutes when Gavi surged forward to find Pablo Sarabia, who unselfishly squared for the forward to tap in.

Carlos Soler almost doubled Spain's lead shortly after but was denied by Diogo Costa before blazing the rebound over, while Andre Silva drilled just wide of Unai Simon's right post.

Fernando Santos responded by sending on Ruben Neves at half-time but the second-half proceedings continued in similar vein, with Spain in control.

Leao spurned a presentable opportunity by firing into the onrushing Simons' legs, before Morata prodded wastefully wide in an attempt to chip Costa.

Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced just after the hour, but it was another substitute, Horta, who equalised as he converted Joao Cancelo's whipped cross, before Jordi Alba headed agonisingly wide with the goal gaping in the closing stages.

Spain boss Luis Enrique gave Liverpool fans hope for the Champions League final by describing Thiago Alcantara's injury as "not serious", while it was confirmed Ansu Fait and Marco Asensio have been recalled to the national team.

Thiago was injured in the Reds' Premier League season-finale 3-1 win over Wolves on Sunday, with Liverpool unable to pip Manchester City to the title despite taking the three points.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said Thiago was limping and it was not the "best sign" ahead of Saturday's European showpiece against Real Madrid in Paris.

But Luis Enrique offered some encouragement to the club's supporters, who are hoping to see their team add to the EFL Cup and FA Cup trophies they have already won this term.

"We have spoken with the player and it is not serious. He is having a great season. We are going to wait," he told a news conference on Monday.

"If he does not reach the final he will have to join us so that our doctors can see him."

Luis Enrique also confirmed the return of Barca star Fati to the national team, with a succession of injuries meaning the exciting forward has not represented La Roja since October 2020.

The head coach said he would not take any undue risks with Fati's fitness in upcoming Nations League matches with Portugal, Czech Republic (twice), and Switzerland.

"I have a special plan, we are not going to take any risks, we are going to see him train, he is not going to play much of the minutes," he said.

"It is more than anything a return to competition and to the parameters of the national team. It is more of a prize than wanting to charge it with minutes."

Asensio last featured for his country back in November 2020, although he was part of Spain's Olympics team last year, and his recall was met with some question marks given his limited game time for Madrid.

"I have seen what I have always seen. It is true that in his team he is not playing too much but what they do here with us is more important," Luis Enrique said of the attacking midfielder's inclusion.

"He may be the first surprised. Let's not kid ourselves, there are casualties in his position, but that doesn't mean he won't come back. Opportunities are there to be seized."

There is still no return for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, but Luis Enrique insists he can still work his way back into the fold.

"I spoke to him at the time and from then on I don't call them [to say] why I make my decisions. He can return to the national team," he said.


Spain squad in full: Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya; Inigo Martinez, Pau Torres, Dani Carvajal, Jordi Alba, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso; Sergio Busquets, Gavi, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Rodri, Thiago Alcantara, Carlos Soler; Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio, Raul de Tomas, Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres.

Luis Enrique is optimistic that Spain will win this year's World Cup, despite being drawn in a tough group that contains fellow heavyweights Germany.

Top seeds Spain were placed in Group E in Friday's ceremony in Doha along with Germany, Japan and either Costa Rica or New Zealand, who meet in a play-off in June.

Spain and Germany, who lifted the famous trophy in 2010 and 2014 respectively, will face off in the competition for a fifth time.

La Roja have failed to beat Germany in their previous three group encounters, but they won their most recent World Cup meeting in the 2010 semi-finals.

They have met just twice since then in competitive games, with Spain hammering Die Mannschaft 6-0 in the Nations League in 2020 after a 1-1 draw in the same competition.

Germany have replaced Joachim Low with Hansi Flick since then, however, and are unbeaten in nine games under their new boss, winning eight of those.

The inclusion of a Japan side that reached the last 16 in 2018 and one of the play-off winners makes for a tough group, but Luis Enrique is in a bullish mood.

"It's going to be nice. It's a great group with a great rival, one that we'll enjoy. You don't play at World Cups often," he told reporters.

"My body has stayed as it was before the draw, the same. Regardless of who we got, being in the tournament is already a prize.

"Being seeded means what has been done in recent years counts. We know about Germany but not so much the rest, though we have time to analyse them.

"Competing against us is very complicated and it will be difficult to beat us. Anyone can beat us and we can beat any team.

"It is time to enjoy and be optimistic. We are Spain, seventh in the world ranking and we are going to conquer the world."

 

Spain's huge showdown with Germany will take place on November 27, their second group game.

Should Spain advance, as expected, they will meet either Belgium, Croatia, Canada or Morocco from Group F in the first knockout round.

Fernando Hierro, who took charge of Spain for their disappointing 2018 campaign when exiting to Russia in the last 16, believes facing Germany will give La Roja a chance to lay down an early marker.

"People give a lot of importance to the draw, but if you want to be world champion, you have to beat them all," Hierro said. "World Cups are won, not lost. 

"It is true that everyone pays a lot of attention to the draw for the first group phase. 

"But the most important thing is that in the end, if you want to be world champion, you have to beat everyone.

"Therefore, sooner or later the best teams will arrive, and the World Cup will be decided there."

Luis Enrique believes Spain have what it takes to win the 2022 World Cup, but adds his side will still have to contend with luck after a 5-0 rout against Iceland.

Braces for Alvaro Morata and Pablo Sarabia, plus Yeremi Pino's first goal for his country, helped La Roja to a runaway victory against their visitors at the Riazor.

After struggling to break through a stubborn Albania on Saturday, Tuesday's performance fell more in line with the high-energy performances of Euro 2020 last summer.

With a semi-final finish at their last major tournament as incentive, Luis Enrique certainly feels he has the players to help him go one step further and claim victory in Qatar later this year.

"We are capable of fighting anyone," he stated. "We are going to be competitive, for sure.

"The luck factor is important, as we saw in South Africa, and we hope to control everything that does not depend on that luck factor."

With several names pressing for inclusion, Luis Enrique further admitted whittling his squad down from the roster of players in contention for a place will be just as tough a task in itself too.

"It's going to be tough," he added. "26 [players]? Only 11 play. What I can say is that this team is going to compete with anyone and put anyone in trouble.

"But make no mistake, anyone can beat us. The atmosphere that lives in this team is very special. The base you know what it is.

"We will assess when the time comes. What matters is the mentality of adding. My parameters are not going to change."

Spain coach Luis Enrique sees plenty of room for growth in Barcelona star Pedri, suggesting he "can improve everything".

Pedri announced himself on the international stage at Euro 2020, where he made the most final-third passes (177), before achieving the same tournament-leading feat with the Under-23 squad at the Tokyo Olympics (83).

The midfielder also started in the 2-1 friendly win over Albania on Saturday, his 11th consecutive appearance under Luis Enrique without losing for Spain, only Jose Gaya (15) boasts a longer such streak.

Former La Roja midfielder Cesc Fabregas heaped praise on the 19-year-old, in an interview with Marca, while praising Barca head coach Xavi for trusting Pedri when others may favour a more "combative" player.

Luis Enrique echoed Fabregas' sentiments at Monday's pre-match news conference ahead of a friendly with Iceland, but claimed the teenager can still develop all areas of his game.

"Sports players are talented athletes, we do not care about age, or physique," the Spain boss said when asked about Fabregas' comments. "If we had that idea, Pedri would not play a single minute, nor would he be in the squad. Here what we're looking for is football talent, it's very easy.

He added: "The first time I saw Pedri was when he was playing with Las Palmas, already at that age we saw that he was something special.

"What does he have to improve? Everything. He can improve everything. With that ability and talent, even his defending, he can improve everything.

"You have to let him grow and develop. We have always liked players with that football brain and tactical profile."

Pedri joined his coach at the news conference and suggested he does not feel the added pressure on him as world football hails his potential.

"I am aware. I take it very calmly, I have to take the weight off myself. The team is more important than a player," he said.

Pedri and Barca team-mate Gavi have drawn comparisons to Blaugrana greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but he acknowledged it will be difficult to emulate the legendary pair.

"Xavi and Iniesta? Hopefully," he responded. "It's very difficult to do what they did. I have a spectacular relationship with [Gavi], I have a special appreciation for him and I think he has very good potential."

Fellow Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets remains captain of the national team, but Luis Enrique suggested the 33-year-old must continue with his performance levels to keep the armband.

"No one is irreplaceable. We are all aware of the importance he has in the national team," he said of Busquets. "If his level is the same as always, he remains captain and gives us everything he gives us.

"His behaviour is exemplary but also [Jordi] Alba and Koke, they perform a similar role and are important."

Speculation has persisted over Luis Enrique's future, with suggestions he may soon opt for a role in club football. However, the former Barca coach was quick to reiterate his desire to work with the national setup.

"I've explained it to you so many times and in different ways," he told reporters about his plans. "It's up to you. In Qatar? Sure, I will be in charge. I want nothing more than to represent my country at the World Cup."

Luis Enrique promised Spain would not wait another 18 years before playing in Catalonia again after a noisy home crowd roared his team to a 2-1 win over Albania.

La Roja had not played in the region since February 2004, when they tackled Peru in a friendly at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, so Saturday's game was significant from that perspective.

With many in Catalonia harbouring hopes of independence from Spain, Saturday's match at Espanyol's RCDE Stadium was a test of what loyalty there remained to the team.

Head coach Enrique was pleased it proved overwhelmingly positive, and late goals from Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo, either side of a freak equaliser, carried Spain to victory.

"The people deserved that joy," said the Spain boss. "Barcelona likes the national team and the national team likes to come to Barcelona.

"I have been here for many years, and they have always treated me with respect and affection. Catalonia always respects."

 

Luis Enrique – who previously played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and coached the former from 2014 to 2017 – added: "It would have bothered me a lot not to win, because of the unique atmosphere that we have experienced.

"I don't remember a game, where I have played or coached, in which the fans have been so decisive. It is impossible that we will be another 18 years without coming here."

Spain remain a work in progress, and they struggled to convert possession into clear-cut chances for long stretches of this friendly fixture. They had 81.5 per cent of possession and played a startling 948 passes to 212 by Albania.

From this they attempted 13 shots, and their expected goals total – reflecting the quality of chances – was a modest 1.7 against a team ranked 65th in the world by FIFA.

Substitute Yeremi Pino created the 75th-minute opener by winning possession from dawdling defenders and threading an ideal ball that Barcelona forward Ferran Torres cracked beyond Etrit Berisha.

Pau Torres then headed a long ball against Albania's Myrto Uzuni and the ball squirted past goalkeeper David Raya to bring Albania level with five minutes remaining.

Olmo had the final say, however, with the RB Leipzig man curling a fine finish into the top-right corner.

"There is a lot of room [for improvement] because we are one of the youngest teams," said the coach. "We do a lot of things well, but we still have a way to go."

Luis Enrique explained his reason for not signing a new contract as Spain coach is so that it is easy for him to depart if La Roja disappoint at the World Cup.

The 51-year-old former Barcelona player and coach returned for his second stint in charge of Spain's senior side in November 2019.

Five months earlier, he had stepped down for "family reasons" that were later confirmed to relate to his young daughter suffering with cancer. She died in August 2019.

When Luis Enrique made his return to the Spain setup, he only signed a three-year contract that would keep him in charge until the end of the 2022 World Cup.

Since then, he has led Spain to Qatar 2022 and presided over La Roja's run to the semi-finals of Euro 2020, impressing neutrals throughout the tournament.

However, despite what has been a largely positive spell at the helm, there remains a degree of doubt over Luis Enrique's future, which he was refreshingly honest about.

Asked why he had not yet signed a new contract beyond the World Cup, Luis Enrique – who has recently been linked with Manchester United – said: "I'm in heaven.

"Not renewing, I've done it for you [the media]. As I'm not going to have a contract [after the World Cup], if things go wrong in the World Cup, you won't have to ask me to be fired any more."

But his amusingly frank response was qualified by an insistence that there is no issue between himself and either Luis Rubiales or Jose Molina, respectively the Royal Spanish Football Federation's (RFEF) president and sporting director.

"I feel super supported by both the president and Molina," Luis Enrique continued. "They signed me not once but twice.

"In the circumstances in which I came back, I will never forget it. I am going to fulfil my commitment, which is until after the World Cup."

Spain's preparations ahead of the World Cup continue with a friendly against Albania on Saturday at Espanyol's RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat, near Barcelona.

It will be Spain's first match in Catalonia for 18 years, having last played in the region in February 2004 for a friendly with Peru at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium.

La Roja and Catalonia have had a rocky relationship over the years, but Luis Enrique is excited for such a momentous occasion.

He said: "It's going to be a party. I hope we're at that level. Eighteen years is a long time... We already know the circumstances surrounding this type of occasion, but we face it with great enthusiasm.

"I took it for granted that [the stadium] was going to be full. The last time I played [for a Spain team] in Barcelona, it was the final of the [1992] Olympics and it was full.

"It was one of the best matches of my life for the gold medal. I have no doubts, I hope we can do it, turn it into a party."

Argentine forward Paulo Dybala is set to exit Juventus at the end of this season.

As a result, the Bianconeri are assessing their options for a replacement.

Juventus are currently fourth in Serie A after an excellent run of results which have put them into the title picture.

TOP STORY – ZANIOLO FRAMED AS DYBALA REPLACEMENT 

TuttoMercato claims Juventus have set their sights on Nicolo Zaniolo as Dybala's replacement, with the Roma attacker unlikely to renew with the Giallorossi before his contract expires in 2024.

The first domino in this instance is Dybala, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Juventus have no intention of extending according to Fabrizio Romano. Romano claims the 28-year-old will not move another club in Serie A, opening up a move to long-time suitor Tottenham.

According to TuttoMercato, Juve have chosen Zaniolo as their replacement and would be ready to make a move in the upcoming transfer window. Whether they can manoeuvre to match his current market value of €40million remains to be seen, however.

ROUND-UP

- Per Sky Sports, Manchester United have narrowed their shortlist for a permanent manager down to Ajax's Erik ten Hag, Sevilla's Julen Lopetegui, Spain boss Luis Enrique and Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino .

- Inter have targeted Edinson Cavani as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Calciomercato reports Arsenal will make a move for Arthur in the upcoming transfer window, as contract negotiations with Juventus have broken down.

- Arsenal are also keen to tie Bukayo Saka to a long-term contract, in attempts to fend off outside interest for the 20-year-old, per The Athletic.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has been left out of the latest Spain squad by Luis Enrique, while Barcelona's Sergio Busquets is "rested".

La Roja play friendlies against Albania and Iceland during the upcoming international break, and Luis Enrique has replaced De Gea with another goalkeeper from the Premier League, Brentford's David Raya.

From the previous squad for the final World Cup qualifiers in November, in defence, Inigo Martinez and Jose Luis Gaya are replaced by Diego Llorente and Marcos Alonso, while Marcos Llorente and Pedri come in as midfield options in place of Busquets and Mikel Merino.

Raul de Tomas and Ferran Torres are selected among the forwards, with no place for Rodrigo, Pablo Fornals or Brahim Diaz.

Speaking at a media conference after the squad announcement, Luis Enrique said that Busquets' omission was merely to keep him fresh. The 33-year-old has played 39 games in all competitions for Barca this season.

"In the case of Busquets, it is a personal decision," he confirmed. "He is the player who accumulates the most minutes and I want to have the best version of the captain for the games in June, and I have decided to rest him.

"He is having a spectacular season."

The Spain head coach also said the two upcoming fixtures should not be treated like friendlies, and challenged his squad to show their "ambition" and "hunger" as the World Cup at the end of the year draws closer.

He added: "Since November, the wait has been long [to play again]. They are not friendlies for the players nor for us because the World Cup is close. It will help me to see the level of the players, their ambition, their hunger."

Spain squad in full:

Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya; Marcos Alonso, Jordi Alba, Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Eric Garcia, Diego Llorente, Cesar Azpilicueta, Dani Carvajal; Rodri, Koke, Pedri, Marcos Llorente, Gavi, Carlos Soler; Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Alvaro Morata, Raul de Tomas, Ferran Torres, Yeremy Pino.

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