Yeray debut to round off emotional season
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