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Friday, October 5, 2012
Spain bring in Martinez for Pique

Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

Vicente del Bosque has replaced the injured Gerard Pique with Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez in his Spain squad for the upcoming World Cup Group I qualifiers away to Belarus and at home to France.

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla, Real Betis midfielder Benat Etxeberria and Valencia's Roberto Soldado keep their places, but there is again no room for Athletic centre-forward Fernando Llorente or Chelsea attacker Juan Mata.

The defending World Cup champions face Belarus in Minsk on Friday October 12, before hosting northern neighbours France at Atletico Madrid's Estadio Vicente Calderon the following Tuesday.

The Euro 2012 winning coach said that competition for places in his squad was fierce and he had stuck as closely as possible with those who won Spain's opening qualifier 1-0 in Georgia last month.

"We have a problem of quantity not quality," Del Bosque said. "There are others who could have been included. (Mata) was not called up for the last squad because we agreed with Chelsea that he would have the holidays he missed in the summer. It pains us, but we cannot find a space for him. Llorente is not coming due to his current situation, but he is one of the players we value."

Martinez has been playing in midfield for Bayern but is named as a defender in the 23-man panel which contains four full-backs, but just two recognised centre-halves: Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol.

Del Bosque said he had considered calling up a younger centre-back, but decided that he had enough cover for the two matches.

"We have enough players," he said. "They give us alternatives to resolve the two games. We are taking those who are the best at this moment, but clearly other centre-halves could have come: (Alvaro) Dominguez, Victor Ruiz, (Jordi) Amat, Inigo (Martinez)..."

The former Real Madrid coach declined to comment on how the political atmosphere in Catalonia might impact on the Spanish national team, but did say that he expected no negative fallout from this weekend's Clasico clash between Barcelona and Madrid (where 13 of his squad should feature).

"On this occasion it will not be like that," he said. "These are two vital games. That is a parallel situation, the emotion of the Spanish league is important, but so too are Belarus and then France. We are playing to qualify. It is a short competition and any small thing could bring a setback for qualification."

Del Bosque said that he did not know if new France coach Didier Deschamps would take a defensive approach to their game, considering La Roja had strolled to a 2-0 win over Les Bleus in the Euro 2012 quarter-final.

"There is no one way to beat us," he said. "We are just one more team, we have our virtues and everyone knows them. (France) have a lot of potential. They are a very good team."

Deschamps' side currently top Group I with six points from two games. Spain also have a 100%, but have just played one match so far.

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