After a lackluster 2-1 win over Peru last Saturday, Spanish national-team coach Luis Aragonés is likely to make several changes when his troops face the U.S. in their final pre-European Championship warm-up on Wednesday in Santander (live on espn360.com at 4 p.m. ET; on delay on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m.).
Young Raúl Albiol will likely replace Carlos Marchena in the middle of the back line, while Dani Güiza, La Liga's top scorer with Mallorca last season, could get his first start in place of Fernando Torres. But it's in midfield where Aragonés has an abundance of riches -- one of the reasons Spain is a favorite to win Euro '08, which begins Saturday.
Here is a look at the key midfielders looking to earn starting jobs in Aragonés' 4-1-4-1 (or 4-4-2 if he goes two strikers up top):
Xavi (FC Barcelona): At 28, the Catalan has been a key player for Barcelona and Spain. Xavi, who joined Barça at the age of 11, plays a simple game, using his dribbling and short passing game to maintain possession. He likes to take free kicks and can score -- he has five goals for Spain.
Xabi Alonso (Liverpool). One of the most successful of the Anfield Spaniards, Alonso is nevertheless considered something of a question mark in the Spain midfield. After starting against Peru, he could see his spot taken by Marcos Senna or Cesc Fàbregas against the U.S.
Cesc Fàbregas (Arsenal). The 21-year-old Fàbregas was named the English Premier League Young Player of the Year and a nominee for the Player of the Year, but he could find himself on the sidelines at the start of Euro '08. Arsenal lured him away from Barcelona at the age of 16, and he has been a force in midfielder at Arsenal, where his development under Arsène Wenger has been a reason for the Gunners' continued presence near the top of the EPL.
Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona). Like Xavi and Fàbregas, Iniesta is a product of the Barcelona youth program. He has emerged as a key figure at Barça, starting along with fellow Catalan Xavi, in the face of competition from high-priced foreigners. Like Xavi, Iniesta is cool on the ball, though he may be a better distributor.
David Silva (Valencia). The 22-year-old Silva gives Spain a threat out of midfield from the left wing. Aragonés has stuck with him even though Valencia struggled in 2007-08.
Marcos Senna (Villarreal). At 31, the Brazilian-born Senna has been a fixture in the Spain squad since before the last World Cup. His play at La Liga runner-up Villarreal this season is an argument in his favor.
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