x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Success for Spain lies in the peace process

The Barcelona-Real Madrid harmony is key to keeping Spain on top, says Vicente del Bosque.

World champions Spain are looking to bounce back from a defeat to Italy and repair relations inside the team when they play a friendly against Chile in Switzerland today.

The defending European champions are using the match at St Gallen to prepare for Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Liechtenstein.

Spain's recent record in friendlies has not been impressive, a 2-1 defeat to Italy that dropped them from Fifa's No 1 ranking for the first time since their Word Cup win in South Africa last year.

And the recent run of ill-tempered club matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid have taken their toll, with 14 players in the 24-man squad coming from those two teams.

Much has been made of Real-Barcelona players making peace after their last meeting ended in a brawl, with coach Vicente del Bosque expecting relations to remain intact, especially as the Spanish coach believes that dressing room harmony is a key ingredient to Spain's success.

"I don't know what kind of image we gave off but I can assure there isn't any problems. The tension from the clasicos is normal as everyone is defending their own interests. But here there will never be problems," said Sergio Ramos, the Real defender, yesterday.

Meanwhile, England, who top Group G from Montenegro on goal difference, face Bulgaria in Sofia tonight. Phil Jones, the Manchester UnitedManchester United centre-back, admitted he was surprised to receive his first call-up for the game.

It is only two months since Jones was looking forward to a brief break before joining up with his new teammates after concluding a £17 million (Dh101.7m) move from Blackburn Rovers to United.

According to Sir Alex Ferguson, the deal only went through because he offered Jones an assurance he would get plenty of football this season.

Those have already proved to be true words. After starring in all three Premier League wins for United this season, Jones has been catapulted into the senior England set-up.

"It is an opportunity I didn't expect, but it's a great feeling for family and friends," Jones told the English Football Association's website.

"There's no fear. We are all playing well for our clubs. There is just an excitement and enthusiasm to get out there and start playing."