Veteran striker Aduriz returns to Spain squad for qualifier
MADRID (AP) Spain coach Julen Lopetegui included veteran striker Aritz Aduriz in the squad that will face Macedonia in a World Cup qualifier next week, but several key players are sidelined with injuries, including Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta.
Friday's announcement that the 35-year-old Aduriz has returned to the national team came a day after he scored five goals in Athletic Bilbao's 5-3 win over Genk in the Europa League, although Lopetegui said that the decision had already been made before Thursday's game.
''We had already considered selecting Aduriz before the five goals,'' Lopetegui said. ''He shows that he has been improving. He will provide us with several different options in the attack.''
Aduriz was part of Spain's squad at the European Championship earlier this year in France, but he had not been called up since then.
The other forwards picked by Lopetegui on Friday were Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, Manuel ''Nolito'' Agudo, Jose Callejon and Victor ''Vitolo'' Machin.
Spain will host Macedonia on Nov. 12 in the southern city of Granada. It will also play a friendly against England in London three days later.
Lopetegui said he picked 25 players to ''cover any possible setbacks.'' Also absent from the list because of injuries were Jordi Alba and Javi Martinez.
''We are down several players but we have confidence in the ones that we selected,'' Lopetegui said.
Some of the players getting a chance under Lopetegui include goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, Sergio Escudero, Juan Mata, Marc Bartra and Cesar Azpilicueta. Longtime captain Iker Casillas and midfielder David Villa were not in the list.
Spain and Italy have seven points each after three games in Group G. Albania and Israel are one point behind, while Macedonia and Liechtenstein have yet to earn points.
Only the group winner automatically secures a spot for the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018. The second-place team must go through a playoff to try to make it to the tournament.
Italy will play at last-place Liechtenstein, which has already conceded 12 goals and scored only one.
Spain is coming off a 2-0 win at Albania. Italy and Spain drew 1-1 in Turin in October.
Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Sergio Asenjo (Villarreal).
Defenders: Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad), Ignacio ''Nacho'' Monreal (Arsenal), Sergio Escudero (Sevilla).
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Jorge ''Koke'' Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Ander Herrera (Manchester United), Francisco ''Isco'' Alarcon (Real Madrid).
Forwards: Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Manuel ''Nolito'' Agudo (Manchester City), Jose Callejon (Napoli), Diego Costa (Chelsea), Victor ''Vitolo'' Machin (Sevilla), Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao).
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni