Ansu Fati to start Spain’s final warm-up: Morata absent

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Spain national soccer team coach Luis Enrique, center, prepares to speak with his players during a training session in Las Rozas, just outside Madrid, Spain, on Monday November 14, 2022. The team will travel to Jordan for a friendly game on Thursday. then to Qatar to participate in the World Cup. (AP Photo/Paul White)

PA

Ansu Fati will start Spain’s final warm-up before the World Cup on Thursday, with Álvaro Morata, Hugo Guillamón and Marcos Llorente not playing after missing training time this week.

Coach Luis Enrique said on Wednesday he hoped Fati can play the full 90 minutes of the game against Jordan before the trip to Qatar.

“I ask you not to talk about Ansu as a player who just got injured,” Luis Enrique said. “I see him in better condition than in June, when he couldn’t be with us.”

Fati hadn’t been called up by Luis Enrique during the last international break before the World Cup as the 20-year-old striker didn’t play for Barcelona often.

Ansu hasn’t played for Spain since making his fourth appearance as a teenager in October 2020, shortly after becoming Spain’s youngest goalscorer.

He is one of several youngsters selected by Luis Enrique for the revamped Spanish squad, along with 18-year-old Gavi Páez, 19-year-old Pedri González and 22-year-old Hugo Guillamón. Gavi finally broke Fati’s record by scoring his first goal for Spain aged 17 years and 304 days.

Guillamón, Morata and Llorente weren’t in top form at the start of the team’s preparations and Luis Enrique said they wouldn’t play Jordan. He said their fitness issues were not serious, however, and would not affect the squad ahead of the World Cup opener against Costa Rica on November 23.

“If the World Cup started tomorrow everyone would be available to play,” he said.

Morata has been Spain’s regular starter up front, and Luis Enrique hasn’t said who will replace him against Jordan.

“The team will not change the way they play, whether they have Álvaro or not,” the coach said. “There will be no changes.”

Luis Enrique says the game against Jordan could help him decide the starting line-up against Costa Rica.

“The results of this match will be important and the players know that,” he said. “If you can earn a place in the starting line-up in a training session, imagine in a match.”

Spain’s other matches in Group E of the World Cup will be against Germany and Japan.

La Roja are in the hunt for their first major title since the 2012 European Championship, which came two years after winning their only World Cup title in South Africa.

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