Spain expects Xavi, Xabi Alonso to return for France
Spain should have their trusted midfield trio of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets back in place for Tuesday's World Cup Group I clash against France in Paris, coach Vicente del Bosque said on Monday.
Xavi and Alonso are coming back after niggling injuries and missed Friday's surprise 1-1 draw at home to Finland, while Busquets was deployed as a makeshift centre back when Spain were held 1-1 by France in Madrid in October.
"Both (Xavi and Alonso) are fine but as I have said we are not going to risk anyone and it will be the players who take the final decision," Del Bosque told a news conference at Spain's team hotel in the French capital.
"Nobody will be forced to play if they are not at 100 percent," he added.
"Xavi is the best doctor and if he feels he can play he will do so."
The three were a fixture for Spain across the midfield as they swept to victory at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Busquets and Alonso provide a solid foundation for Xavi to dictate the play in the middle, while Alonso can also get forward to score and netted both goals in a 2-0 success against France in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
"It's true that they (Busquets and Alonso) have given us a lot of success but less as a pair than as footballers," Del Bosque said.
"We shouldn't forget that Xabi Alonso is one of the top scorers of our era," he added in reference to the Real Madrid's player's 15 goals for the national team.
Spain's draw at home to Finland meant France leapfrogged them into first place in the group on 10 points.
Spain have eight points in second, with only one team from each group earning direct qualification for the finals in Brazil next year. The eight best runners-up enter a playoff for the last four European berths.
Del Bosque said Spain's inability to break through Finland's massed defences more than once on Friday was a matter for concern but added that he expected a much more open game against the French at the Stade de France.
"Of course it worries us a bit when we have so much possession and are camped on their penalty area but cannot get through," he said.
"But at the same time there is no reason to get nervous or lose patience," he added.
"I don't expect tomorrow's game to be like that. It's going to be much more open than both the Finland game."
He said he would be pleased if France used the ultra-defensive tactics that many teams deploy against Spain.
"I hope they play defensively and we can spend the whole match around their penalty area," he said. "Normally we would finish as the winners."
Centre back Sergio Ramos, who captained the side and put Spain 1-0 ahead against the Finns on Friday, said the world and European champions were not about to tinker with their playing style simply because of one or two setbacks.
"We have always remained faithful to our philosophy and style and I don't think we should change that," he told an earlier news conference.
"We shouldn't change what has served us well in the past and has helped us win and be successful."