Yeray de­but to round off emo­tional sea­son

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

BARCELONA: Spain coach Julen Lopetegui could give Ath­letic Bil­bao de­fender Yeray Al­varez, pic­tured, his full de­but in a friendly against Colom­bia to­mor­row, just five months after the player was suc­cess­fully treated for tes­tic­u­lar can­cer.

Lopetegui has the tricky task of re­spect­ing the oc­ca­sion of a pres­ti­gious friendly against Colom­bia in Mur­cia, and also keep­ing his best side fresh for Sun­days’ vi­tal World Cup qual­i­fier against Mace­do­nia.

That will mean his team to­mor­row is full of sec­ond-string play­ers and Yeray looks set for a de­but that would round off an emo­tional sea­son for the 22-year-old.

On De­cem­ber 27 last year he had surgery after be­ing told he had a tes­tic­u­lar tu­mour.

He re­turned to ac­tion for Ath­letic Bil­bao on Fe­bru­ary 4 against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and by March 23 he was mak­ing his de­but for Spain’s Un­der-21s at Mur­cia’s Nueva Con­dom­ina sta­dium.

His good form con­tin­ued un­til the end of the sea­son and he could now make his first ap­pear­ance for the se­nior Spain side in the same arena.

Coach Lopetegui has to raise a team with­out six Real Madrid play­ers who have been given spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion to turn up late for in­ter­na­tional duty be­cause they were in­volved in the Cham­pi­ons League at the week­end.

De­fender Na­cho Fer­nan­dez, mid­fielder Mar­cos Asen­sio and striker Al­varo Mo­rata will all join train­ing today while Dani Car­va­jal, Ser­gio Ramos and Isco, who all started the fi­nal, will not meet up with their in­ter­na­tional team­mates un­til Thurs­day.

Lopetegui may well name Chelsea’s Ce­sar Azpilicueta along­side Yeray.

The Chelsea de­fender said of his team­mate: “I could pick out his phys­i­cal at­tributes, his abil­ity in the air, or his tal­ent for bring­ing the ball out from the back but per­haps the most im­pres­sive thing about him is the strength he showed to over­come his ill­ness.”

Azpilicueta ad­mit­ted Spain’s pri­or­ity this week is Sun­day’s World Cup qual­i­fier against Mace­do­nia with them look­ing for a win to set them­selves up for their cru­cial meet­ing with fel­low group favourites Italy in Septem­ber.

Azpilicueta said: “We are play­ing for three vi­tal points on Sun­day and we just want to reach that game in the best shape pos­si­ble.”

As well as Yeray and Azpilicueta, Lopetegui could pick Arse­nal’s Hec­tor Bel­lerin, Ath­letic Bil­bao’s Inaki Wil­liams, Real So­ciedad pair Asier Il­lara­mendi and Al­varo Odri­o­zola, AC Mi­lan winger Ger­ard Deulofeu and Celta Vigo’s Iago As­pas as he takes the op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment. – dpa

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