x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The agony of choice for Spain coach Vicente del Bosque

Even with David Villa injured and Fernando Torres only just recently finding his goal touch again, the Spain coach is spoilt for choice up front with Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente as options.

Roberto Soldado's hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao took the Valencia striker's tally to 17 league goals. Rafa Rivas / AFP
Roberto Soldado's hat-trick against Athletic Bilbao took the Valencia striker's tally to 17 league goals. Rafa Rivas / AFP

Roberto Soldado's hat-trick for Valencia against an Athletic Bilbao side who outclassed Manchester United days early pushed him ahead of the much heralded Fernando Llorente as the leading Spanish goalscorer in the Primera Liga this season.

Both have less than half the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo's 32 and Lionel Messi's 31, but they are well satisfied with a season which they hope will end with a place in the Spain side in Euro 2012. Both are unlikely to start in the same team.

Who Vicente del Bosque chooses to play up front is intriguing.

For a long time, David Villa has been the only striker on the team sheet.

Del Bosque's side play a Barcelona style 4-3-3. Villa is usually deployed centrally with his Barca teammates Pedro and Andres Iniesta either side. Or Juan Mata or David Silva. Or Santi Cazorla. The options are rich for Del Bosque, but there is a twist.

Villa broke a leg in December. He is expected to return in late April, but will that give him enough time to reach top form before Euro 2012 in June? That is his aim.

Fernando Torres, usually the second choice, scored his first goals in 152 days for Chelsea at the weekend. He enjoyed favour in the national team long after his form declined, but Soldado made a Spain return last month after a five-year absence.

He replaced Llorente in a friendly win against Venezuela and did his prospects no harm with a second-half hat-trick in a 5-0 win. Soldado, 26, has become the main man at Valencia after replacing Villa in 2010.

He managed 18 league goals last season and has 17 so far this term with Valencia on target for a third consecutive third-place finish.

An old fashioned striker and goal poacher, he is not as technically gifted as Villa, or an in-form Torres, and he does not offer the height option of Llorente at set pieces, but that seldom matters in open play as Spain are anything but long-ball merchants.

Even with injuries and out of form strikers, Del Bosque is spoilt for choice.

 

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