Spain sweating on Fabregas fitness
Cesc Fabregas is a doubt for Spain's Confederations Cup semi-final with Italy on Thursday in Fortaleza due to a muscle problem.
Fabregas started Sunday's 3-0 group win over Nigeria, hitting the post in the first half, but leaving the pitch on 54 minutes having earlier come to the sideline to talk to his team's medical staff.
It was first thought the midfielder had suffered nausea due to the oppressively hot and humid conditions inside the Estadio Castelao, but the Spanish FA tweeted an update after the game suggesting a more serious issue.
OFICIAL | Cesc ha sido sustituido por precaución debido a molestias musculares. Mañana el Dr. Celada realizará una nueva valoración.— Selección Española (@SeFutbol) June 23, 2013
"Cesc was substituted in a precaution due to muscle problems," it said. "Tomorrow [Monday] Dr. Celada will carry out a new examination."
Speaking after the match, coach Vicente del Bosque said that the move had been a precaution, as Fabregas himself had been wary of doing more serious damage.
"He was taken off in a precautionary measure," Del Bosque told Marca. "Now the doctors will give their word. It does not seem anything important, but in case it might have become more serious he asked for the change."
Manchester City's David Silva replaced Cesc on Sunday, and looks the most likely replacement against the Italians should the Barcelona man not recover in time. Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez is another option if Del Bosque prefers to stiffen his midfield against the Azzurri, who will be out for revenge having lost 4-0 to Spain in the Euro 2012 final.
The conditions in Fortaleza appeared to play a role in a less than sparkling Spanish performance, where the Nigerians caused regular problems to the Spanish defence, especially during the opening 45 minutes. Fabregas' blaugrana team-mate Sergio Busquets reportedly vomited before the game but subsequently got through the 90 minutes, while centre-back Sergio Ramos also reportedly felt the effects of the conditions.
Fernando Torres, who scored Spain's second goal with his first touch after replacing Roberto Soldado on the hour mark, told Spanish radio show El Larguero after the game that the humidity especially had been a problem for him and his team-mates.
"I do not know how they managed 90 minutes on the pitch," Torres said. "I played half an hour and I was dead. The effort that my team-mates have made today was tremendous. There was a lot of humidity, you feel heavy, and you could see that. We did not have the same fluency or spark as on other days, you could see that Nigeria were physically more complete than us. But in the end the quality of this team came through."
Torres' goal, and two missed chances by Soldado in the first half, also left Del Bosque with a selection poser up front. The veteran coach must also decide whether to stick with Victor Valdes in goal, or bring back national captain Iker Casillas for Thursday's game, which is likely to be played in similar conditions at the Estadio Castelao.