Fernando Santos had no concerns around his future as Portugal coach after his team lost 1-0 to Spain and missed out on a place at the Nations League Finals.

Spain's dramatic victory came courtesy of Alvaro Morata's goal in the 88th minute, sending La Roja to next year's tournament instead of Portugal.

Having only needed a draw to advance, the late winner was of great frustration to Santos, but he would not entertain talk around his status as coach.

Informed of criticism and asked whether poor results would affect his position, Santos shot back: "Well, that's fine. But what should I answer? It doesn't pinch [impact] me at all.

"Do you want to be more direct or is that your question?

"My contract goes until 2024. I can't be more direct than that."

On the match, Santos added: "We cannot concede a goal in the last minutes. If we have to defend, we should give everything for it.

"Anyway, the players worked hard, and we still had a good opportunity, but we didn't make the most of it." 

Spain had five shots on target to Portugal's four, but all of those came after the 71st minute, with Santos' side paying for their earlier profligacy.

"If I would like to simplify, I would say that we had several opportunities and Spain only had a few," the coach said. "So it would be a matter of efficiency: we didn't score.

"We must look at the whole game. We are all very sad. We were convinced that we would reach the Nations League Finals. We are not there, so we are obviously sad.

"We must move on and identify what needs to be improved. We must address it in order to be on top form at the World Cup."

Portugal were not helped by Cristiano Ronaldo's failure to contribute in attack.

He has now not scored in his past three appearances for Portugal, and there are questions around his ability to carry the national team without consistent game time at Manchester United.

"I am only interested in the team's performance," Santos said. "Ronaldo had three or four chances, two of them very good.

"He normally scores [in these situations], but he didn't. It's football. We normally expect him to score, but he didn't."

Head coach Luis Enrique "had the feeling that the goal was going to come" for Spain as a late Alvaro Morata strike earned victory over Portugal to reach next year's Nations League Finals.

Spain needed to win in Braga if they were to top Group A2 above Portugal, but the hosts had the better of the first-half opportunities.

However, substitutions from Luis Enrique turned the game in Spain's favour, before they found a dramatic 88th-minute winner when Morata smashed in from Nico Williams' downwards header.

Luis Enrique claims he knew his team were going to score, telling reporters: "It is a wonderful sport in which victory is the best antidote for any depression or state of sadness.

"Portugal are a top team. In the first half, I insisted a lot, perhaps too much, on having the ball, and we did. It is clear that we prefer to make the passes in the opposing half.

"The first half is necessary to show that the ball is ours; in the second half, I had the feeling that the goal was going to come.

"We repeat reaching the final four, and it is a great joy."

The important victory will no doubt stir hopes of Spain repeating their 2010 heroics, when Vicente del Bosque led the nation to their first and only World Cup crown.

The 2022 tournament in Qatar is fast approaching, and Luis Enrique faces tough decisions in picking his final squad.

"It is wonderful to train these players," he told reporters. 

"The list is not 26; there are 40 who can come to the World Cup. It is a pleasure to train players of such quality.

"The pity is that players are going to stay out [of the final squad]. It changes continuously. It will be difficult for me."

Alvaro Morata's late goal gave Spain a 1-0 victory over Portugal and snatched a place at the Nations League Finals from their hosts in Braga.

Spain needed to win to leapfrog Fernando Santos' side atop Group A2 but had looked set to be frustrated, with Portugal enjoying the better of the first-half opportunities.

However, substitutions from Luis Enrique after the break changed the game, and Nico Williams' header across goal was smashed in by Morata to steal a precious victory.

The dramatic win means Spain will join Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands at next year's tournament, with Portugal left to rue missed chances and sloppy defending in the closing stages.

 

Luis Enrique says Spain will be treating Tuesday's Nations League group decider against Portugal as if it is a World Cup quarter-final.

La Roja lock horns with the Euro 2016 champions in the Group A2 finale in Braga, with the visitors needing to win to secure their place in next year's finals.

Spain's chances of finishing at the group summit were dented following a 2-1 defeat against Switzerland on Saturday, while Portugal leapfrogged them after running out 4-0 winners against the Czech Republic.

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique remains optimistic about his nation's scenario, which he likened to preparing for a World Cup knockout tie.

"It's a final and we're thinking about it that way. It's positive to have reached matchday six with the possibility of being champions," he said at Monday's pre-match press conference.

"We put it as if it were the quarter-finals of Qatar. It's 90 minutes and it's only worth winning – not even a draw is useful.

"We have always defined [Portugal] as very talented and with an outstanding physical presence. They have already conquered very important things, and the evolution of the teams is usually measured by what they win."

Portugal boss Fernando Santos says his players cannot face any more pressure than they already weather, ahead of their Nations League crunch clash with Spain.

The Euro 2016 winners will play their neighbours in their last game in Group A2, with a two-point cushion ahead of Luis Enrique's side at the summit.

It means the winner will progress through to next year's finals, though a draw in Braga would be enough for the hosts to edge La Roja.

Ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup later this year, it presents a suitable high-pressure test for Santos and his side – but the 67-year-old says there can be no further weight upon what his squad already have to deal with.

"Three days ago, Portugal had to win the next two games because Spain would win their first," he said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"But even a draw would have been enough to come to the final match alive. That's absolutely normal. I just try to take this pressure out of my players. If they do what we have to do, we are closer to victory.

"Do you think we can have more pressure than we have already? These players have pressure everywhere they go. They always play to win, to be champions. We always play to win, we demand it.

"We can't have more pressure than that, right? That means we know how to deal with pressure, as we have been earning positive results."

Portugal leapfrogged Spain to top spot on Saturday after the former picked up a handy 4-0 win over the Czech Republic, while the latter slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Switzerland.

Santos is nevertheless anticipating a tough challenge, regardless of result, adding: "I expect a Spain just like they always are. They don't change a thing.

"Everyone knows Spain. They've played the same way for 20 years. It's a team of possession, pressure, one that reacts well to the loss of the ball. They have a clear matrix in the way they play.

"We don't have to be worried about Spain but we have to respect them, as we respect all opponents. We have to be focused on ourselves."

Luis Enrique believes Spain's performance in the first half of Saturday's defeat to Switzerland was their worst 45 minutes of his reign.

Spain slumped to a disappointing 2-1 loss in Zaragoza that leaves them trailing Portugal by two points in Nations League Group A2 heading into the last game.

That final group match is on Tuesday as Spain prepare to face the leaders in Braga, with Fernando Santos' side 4-0 winners over the Czech Republic on Saturday.

La Roja did not muster a single shot on target until Jordi Alba's 55th-minute equaliser at La Romareda, and Luis Enrique could not hide his disappointment at the showing.

"Losing is always something that hurts. It has been a pity, but we must value Switzerland, who from the beginning caused us many difficulties," the coach said.

"In the first half, it was the worst of my time as coach. [Then] we have badly defended the corner of their second goal.

"In the second half we improved. We have tried until the end. The key game is Portugal. We will go to Braga to win."

The manner of Saturday's loss clearly perturbed Luis Enrique, understandable given the World Cup starts in less than two months.

Yet, he is refusing to blow it out of proportion, adamant he does not need to re-evaluate his faith in the squad just because of one result.

Asked if the game generated doubts in relation to Qatar 2022, Luis Enrique replied: "No doubts.

"Obviously it's better to go to Qatar on a winning streak, but I have full confidence in the team. I have seen many players in the first half who have been more imprecise than ever, but the opponents are good, they know how they play.

"But everything doesn't always go well, when you don't have a good day, this happens.

"A victory against Portugal would be the perfect way to reach the World Cup. We have drawn three times with them and now we will go there to win."

Portugal only need a draw on Tuesday to seal their place in the Nations League Finals for the second time.

Diogo Dalot insists Portugal's approach in their final Nations League Group A2 game against Spain will not be any different after rising to the top of the table.

A comfortable 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic in Prague, where the Manchester United full-back scored a brace, came alongside a surprising 2-1 defeat for Spain against Switzerland.

Those results set up a decisive match between Portugal and Spain on Tuesday in Braga, where the hosts know avoiding defeat will secure a spot in next year's Finals tournament.

Despite now finding themselves in pole position, Dalot says the outlook ahead of the game has not changed.

"Our thinking will be the same, whether Spain had won or our result [had been different]. We're going to Braga to win," he said.

"It's going to be a very complicated game and we have to do our [work] to be able to be in the next phase."

Dalot was also pleased with the overall performance from the squad, believing it to be evidence of their strength ahead of the World Cup later this year.

"The most important thing was the good game we played collectively. I think we could still have done a little better after the third goal, taking it easy and more ball," he added.

"We had some scares there that could have given them a goal, but we kept our cool. Defensively we were also very good and I think the result speaks for itself. We played a great game, and we deserved this win.

"This is the result of the work we have been doing. We have a lot of quality. This is a strong [moment] for us. The World Cup is coming, it's a competition where we always want to be."

Luis Enrique is "optimistic about what lies ahead" as Spain prepare to try and win Group A2 in the Nations League.

La Roja host Switzerland on Saturday knowing a win will secure top spot for them if Portugal lose to the Czech Republic.

Should they not seal it this weekend, Spain will have a second chance to do so when they travel to face Portugal in their final Nations League group game on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Luis Enrique was boosted by what he had seen in training from his squad, including first-time call-ups Borja Iglesias and Nico Williams.

"It has been the best week of training for the players since I became a coach," he said. "Even Borja and Nico, making their debuts.

"I am optimistic about what lies ahead. A brutal week, even those who play little have the level to compete."

The former Barcelona boss was refusing to look ahead to the clash with Portugal before facing the Swiss.

"Even losing [to Switzerland], if we beat Portugal, We'll be through," he said. "But that doesn't mean we'll speculate. The next one is the most important game.

"The good thing about the Nations League is that all the teams have something at stake. If Switzerland don't get more points, they will [be relegated to League B]. 

"Good players can play together like [Alvaro] Morata and Borja. We will not change the way any player plays and everyone has assimilated to our way of working."

Luis Enrique was also asked about the situation with the Spain women's team, with 15 players having said they do not want to play under current head coach Jorge Vilda.

Ballon d'Or winner and Barcelona superstar Alexia Putellas effectively joined the rebellion on Friday, posting a statement from the disenchanted group.

"It is a totally abnormal situation, and difficult to manage," Luis Enrique said on the matter. "But I have not the slightest doubt that the [Spanish Football] Federation will manage it in the best possible way. There are many factors."

Alexia Putellas has backed the 15 players who are refusing to play for Spain women's national team boss Jorge Vilda, after the federation doubled down on its support for the coach.

Ballon d'Or winner and Barcelona superstar Putellas effectively joined the rebellion on Friday, posting a statement from the disenchanted group.

Spain's football federation, the RFEF, was accused in the statement of using "an infantilising tone" when responding to what the players consider a serious matter.

The players said it was with "regret" that they had taken their "extreme" stance, but that it was decided upon with a view "to be able to achieve maximum professional and personal success again".

Putellas is injured and not in contention for current Spain squads, with reports saying she was not among the players who emailed the RFEF to state their unavailability for future selection by Vilda.

The statement she shared on social media condemned the RFEF for revealing the players had each expressed worries about their "emotional state" and "health".

The precise cause of their dissatisfaction with Vilda has not been disclosed, although the players' statement said: "In no case have we RESIGNED from [the] Spanish football team as indicated in the RFEF's official statement.

"As we said in our private communication, we have maintained, continue to maintain and will continue to maintain an unquestionable commitment to the Spanish team.

"That is why we requested in our communication sent to the RFEF not to be summoned until situations are reversed that affect our emotional and personal state, our performance and, consequently, the results of the national team, and that could derive in undesirable injuries. These would be the reasons that lead us to make this decision."

The players said they "want a firm commitment to a professional project", in order "to get the best performance from a group of players with whom we believe that more and better goals can be achieved".

They stressed they had no interest in "entering into public wars", yet that is how this is now shaping up, with the two sides very much at odds.

The players said they "have never asked for the dismissal of the coach", saying they "understand that our job is not to choose said position", and said they hoped to explain "in a constructive and honest way" how the team's performance can be improved.

It was wrong, they said, to consider their action as "a whim or blackmail", and pointed to the negative impact being out of the team would have on each of them.

"Last but not least," the players added, "we will not tolerate the infantilising tone with which the RFEF concludes its statement.

"We regret that in the context of women's sport we have to go to this extreme, as unfortunately has happened in other national teams and other sports historically worldwide, in order to advance in a powerful and ambitious professional project for the present and for future generations."

The concluding line of the RFEF's statement on Thursday, which has caused dismay, said the players could only return to Spain duty in future "if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness".

Ana Alvarez, director of women's football at the RFEF, said on Friday that Vilda's position was "unquestionable". He has an agreement to remain as coach until 2024, and his team have qualified for next year's World Cup.

Alvarez also said it would be "in bad taste" and "not reality" to suggest there was anything other than sporting reasons behind the women's opposition to Vilda remaining in charge.

Alvarez said the 15 rebels would be granted their wish of being considered unavailable for selection, and that Vilda would choose his squads from those willing to play for the national team.

Veteran United States women's national team star Megan Rapinoe told the disenchanted Spanish group she would stand with them, saying in an Instagram post: "This many players together like this is so powerful. We should all listen."

Spanish football chiefs threw their support behind women's coach Jorge Vilda on Friday, siding with him ahead of 15 players who announced they would not play for the national team again while he remains in charge.

Ana Alvarez, director of women's football at Spain's national federation, the RFEF, said Vilda's position was "unquestionable".

She confirmed the women who wrote with their concerns would not be selected, saying that was in keeping with their wishes.

Alvarez also said it would be "in bad taste" and "not reality" to suggest there was anything more than sporting reasons behind the women's opposition to Vilda remaining in charge.

The RFEF said on Thursday that the players had individually sent identical emails in which they resigned from Vilda's national team due to the impacts on their "emotional state" and "health". The precise cause of their dissatisfaction with Vilda has not been disclosed.

Vilda has an agreement to remain as coach until 2024, and his team have qualified for next year's World Cup.

There was a scathing initial response from the RFEF to the emails, which it said were "far from exemplary and outside the values ​​of football and sport, and are harmful".

Alvarez followed up in similar fashion on Friday by making it clear the players would not get their way.

"We will not tolerate this kind of pressure," she said. "In their communications they make clear what their situation is. And we listen to them, of course. We will attend to your request not to be called up."

She added, quoted by AS: "Jorge Vilda will make a list in which these 15 players will not feature, as they themselves wish, for their well-argued and respected reasons."

Veteran United States women's national team star Megan Rapinoe told the disenchanted Spanish group she would be "a 16th standing with you", adding in an Instagram post: "This many players together like this is so powerful. We should all listen."

Alvarez explained Vilda was "surprised and disappointed" by the players' emails but remained "strong", and stressed his position is secure, saying: "Today it is unquestionable. We trust him and his work."

She said the RFEF were "very surprised" that the players each cited their health and emotional state, saying that previously they had only raised complaints of "a sporting issue".

"From here we would like them to be recovered as soon as possible, even if they were available for the weekend, since there is a Liga," she said.

Frowning on speculation, Alvarez added: "What is being insinuated is that something more serious is happening beyond sports. We emphatically deny it. We find it in bad taste to imply that there may be something more."

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) says 15 players will resign from the women's national team due to the impacts on their "emotional state" and "health" while Jorge Vilda remains as coach.

Vilda has an agreement to remain as coach until 2024 and RFEF president Luis Rubiales has yet to dismiss the boss despite calls earlier in September for his removal.

A selection of Spanish players have now emailed the RFEF, refusing to play until the decision to keep Vilda is "reversed" due to a situation that impacts their "emotional state" and "health".

Despite the apparent disgruntlement with Vilda in charge, his side have already qualified for next year's World Cup.

However, a significant number of Spain players have now refused to play while he remains as coach.

The RFEF has responded by stating that the players, who remain unnamed, will not receive another call-up until they "have recognised their error and mistake".

"The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers," the statement read.

"The Federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of manoeuvres are far from exemplary and outside the values ​​of football and sport and are harmful.

"In accordance with current Spanish legislation, not attending a national team call is classified as a very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of between two and five years of disqualification."

The World Cup in Qatar is now just two months away and the first international break of the season is the final opportunity for squads to convene before coming together for the tournament.

In Europe, the Nations League offers competitive action in the build-up to Qatar, while teams elsewhere will face friendlies.

With a mid-season window and just one break before the action commences in November, it presents a challenge for any new faces to establish themselves in their international side before the squad for the World Cup is selected.

Some have been handed glorious opportunities though and Stats Perform has assessed some of the newcomers.

 

Ivan Toney

England's main striker role is nailed down by skipper Harry Kane but the role of understudy is a competitive one with the likes of Callum Wilson, Tammy Abraham and Ollie Watkins having earned opportunities – and Ivan Toney is the latest to join that list.

Quickly settling into life in the Premier League, Toney netted 12 goals for Brentford in their inaugural campaign last season but has hit new heights in 2022, scoring 13 goals this calendar year.

Toney doesn't just offer goals, though, as he has also contributed seven assists since August 2021, totalling 24 goal involvements (17 goals, 7 assists) in that period, with Kane (31) the only English player to have more in the Premier League.

This season, Toney has five goals and two assists for Brentford, with a tally of seven goal involvements only bettered by Erling Haaland (12) in the Premier League.

Nico Williams

Brother of Inaki Williams, capped once by Spain in a friendly before switching allegiances to Ghana, 20-year-old Nico Williams has been handed a chance by Luis Enrique, who insists the decision is not to ensure he doesn't follow in the footsteps of his sibling.

The right-winger has established himself in Athletic Bilbao's first-team and has made a firm impact this season, scoring twice – including in the recent 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano, which marked the first time both he and Inaki had scored in the same match.

Williams' role with Athletic will continue to grow, having only recently become a regular starter for the Basque side towards the end of last season and now starting five of Athletic's six LaLiga matches.

Securing a spot on the plane for Qatar will not be easy considering the vast competition, but Williams may get his opportunity due to his age, with a forward line of the future potentially being created alongside Yeremy Pino and Ferran Torres.

Kenneth Taylor

Only earning his first start for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season, Kenneth Taylor has become a mainstay in the side this term with five starts across six league appearances for the Dutch champions, following Ryan Gravenberch's move to Bayern Munich.

The 20-year-old has grabbed his opportunity with both hands, scoring three goals and contributing two assists in the league. His control on the ball has also been impressive, misplacing 41 of 352 passing attempts in the Eredivisie for an accuracy of 88 per cent.

In the Champions League, Taylor has yet find the net or contribute an assist, but he has caught the eye. In the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, he won three tackles, the joint-most in the Ajax side, and completed 92 per cent of his passes.

Those performances have earned Taylor a call-up to Louis van Gaal's squad ahead of Gravenberch, who has been capped 10 times by the Netherlands but has found playing time difficult to come by since moving to Bayern.

Enzo Fernandez

Only arriving at Benfica from River Plate ahead of the current season, Enzo Fernandez has quickly made an impression in Portugal, where he was named the Primeira Liga's Midfielder of the Month.

In the third qualifying round of the Champions League, the Argentine struck in both legs against Midtjylland and made a significant impression in the 2-1 group stage win against Juventus – with the most touches (92), pass attempts (71) and accurate passes (68) of his team, as well as the highest pass completion percentage (96%).

He also won 12 duels and won possession on 12 occasions, both tallies that were bettered by none of his team-mates.

His form has already seen him linked with Liverpool, just months after his arrival in European football, and the 21-year-old could be once to watch in Qatar if he secures a seat on the plane.

 

Borja Iglesias

At the age of 29, Borja Iglesias is finally poised to make his international bow with Spain after a sensational calendar year in which he has scored 18 LaLiga goals – with only Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (28) scoring more.

Six of those goals have come in the opening six matches of the 2022-23 season, from which Real Betis have won 15 points to sit behind only Barcelona and Real Madrid in the early-season standings.

Robert Lewandowski (8) is the sole player to score more LaLiga goals than Iglesias this season and he has averaged a goal every 103 minutes, though he is yet to feature in the club's Europa League campaign thus far.

Spain's lack of central striking options may well play into Iglesias' hands in his bid to make the World Cup squad, with the 28-man party for September's Nations League fixtures having only Alvaro Morata as the other natural option through the middle.

Pedri revealed Luis Enrique's Spain view themselves among the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. 

La Roja have endured two disappointing World Cup campaigns since winning the trophy in 2010, being dumped out in 2014's group stage before suffering a last-16 penalty shoot-out loss to hosts Russia four years later.

However, the emergence of several young talents – including Pedri and fellow Barcelona midfielder Gavi – has enabled Luis Enrique to reintroduce a possession-based style of play Spain became renowned for under Vicente del Bosque.

With Spain set to begin their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica in just over two months' time, Pedri sees no reason why the class of 2022 cannot deliver a second World Cup win.

"Perhaps people don't expect so much from us, they don't see us as favourites, but inside we do see ourselves as favourites," he told Sport.

"We will not wear the medal without doing anything. If we work as we should, the opportunity will come.

"There is always pressure at Barca and the national team. You have to try to escape, be calm and enjoy. 

"Here and at Barca we have a team for everything. We work so that at the end of the season we can win everything we play."

Pedri, who does not turn 20 until November, has already won 12 senior international caps and established himself as a key player for Barcelona.

Now, he is setting his sights on competing for football's greatest individual honour.  

Asked whether he saw himself as a future Ballon d'Or winner, Pedri said: "I hope I have the opportunity to be, it is a very complicated prize. 

"You must be the best in the world, I have a lot to learn and improve so that this day can come.

"I worked a lot on the physical side, I still have to improve, but little by little I am adding small things. You can't put so much day by day because of the busy schedule, but you can always improve."

At club level, Pedri has struck up a fine understanding with Barcelona's new signing Robert Lewandowski, whose return of eight goals in six matches has helped Xavi's side to an unbeaten start in LaLiga. 

"It's crazy, he contributes a lot of goals, assists, he's a machine in the area," Pedri said of the Poland international.

"It is spectacular to work with him, he helps young players, those who enter now or have been there for more years. He suits us very well."

Spain face Switzerland and Portugal in their final two matches in Group A2 of the Nations League this month, having built a one-point lead over Fernando Santos' men ahead of those fixtures.

Iago Aspas says a "stubborn" streak means he has not given up hope of winning over Luis Enrique before the World Cup.

The Celta Vigo striker was left out of Enrique's latest Spain squad, meaning he will play no part in the upcoming Nations League games against Switzerland and Portugal.

Those are La Roja's final games before their World Cup squad is announced, and those that have missed out might naturally fear the worst.

Since the start of last season, Aspas has scored 23 goals and had seven assists in 43 LaLiga games for Celta, with that goals return only beaten by Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (30).

Those goals have come at a rate of one every 157.96 minutes, and from an expected goals tally of 16.42, with his return suggesting he is exceeding normal performance levels with his finishing.

The 35-year-old former Liverpool player had been hoping such form would push him into contention for a place in the squad for Qatar 2022, but he now faces a battle to rival the likes of Borja Iglesias and Ferran Torres.

Aspas told the Cadena Ser programme 'El Larguero' that now was not the time to give up on his ambition.

"Hope is the last thing you lose, but it is true that I haven't gone [with the national team] for a while," he said. "I finished last season quite well and now I have continuity in the league.

"Of course it hurts not to go, I'm stubborn and I'm not going to give up until the end. If I get on the final list, all the better. They pay me to play for Celta, but I have that prize just around the corner and I'll do everything possible."

Aspas, who has six goals from 19 caps for Spain, is convinced it is a footballing issue rather than anything personal with Enrique.

"If not, he would have told me because the coach is up front," Aspas added.

Sergio Ramos and Ansu Fati were left out of Luis Enrique's Spain squad on Friday ahead of Nations League games against Switzerland and Portugal.

Head coach Luis Enrique also excluded in-form forward Iago Aspas but called in the uncapped Borja Iglesias and Nico Williams.

The upcoming games are the last for Spain before Luis Enrique chooses his World Cup squad, so all eyes were on whether former captain Ramos, particularly, would return to favour.

Ramos won a record 180 caps for Spain but may have played his final game for La Roja, unless Luis Enrique has a change of heart before November.

The door has been left ajar, but time is running out for Ramos and Aspas.

"These players have been in the national team. They can return to the national team without any doubt," Luis Enrique said on Friday.

It might be a different story for Fati, who has been in favour when fit and is working his way back to his best shape at Barcelona after an injury-disrupted 2021-22 campaign.

Fati has yet to start a LaLiga game this season but has managed two goals and two assists when coming off the bench, in just 120 minutes of action.

Luis Enrique said such limited action was telling at this stage, adding: "Hopefully we will see the best Ansu again, but today I don't see him on the list. He is in the process of gaining confidence and improving after not playing for a long time."

Speaking at a press conference, Enrique said: "Every time there is a squad list, what draws attention is those who aren't in, but I prefer to talk about those who are. I have 25 players that I consider the best for these matches."

 

Athletic Bilbao's Williams, whose brother Inaki recently switched his football allegiance from Spain to Ghana, was hailed by Luis Enrique as "a pure winger", and a player the coaching staff wanted to see up close.

Luis Enrique knows Betis forward Borja already, having previously coached him at Celta Vigo, and said he appreciated the 29-year-old's "always-smiling style on the pitch". He has four LaLiga goals already this term.

Aspas can probably make plans for November and December that do not involve Qatar 2022. The veteran Celta Vigo striker has been an outstanding performer in LaLiga and has five goals already this term in the competition, just one fewer than top scorer Robert Lewandowski.

More remarkably, Aspas has got his goals despite having an expected goals (xG) tally of just 1.4, indicating he is vastly outperforming what would be expected from him.

However, the 35-year-old last played for Spain in 2019.

Spain face Switzerland at La Romareda in Zaragoza on September 24, and tackle Portugal three days later in Braga.

Spain squad: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion), David Raya (Brentford); Pau Torres (Villarreal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Jose Gaya (Valencia), Hugo Guillamon (Valencia), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Eric Garcia (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid); Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Pedri (Barcelona), Koke, Gavi (Barcelona), Carlos Soler (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid); Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain), Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Borja Iglesias (Real Betis), Yeremy Pino (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Barcelona).

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