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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Villa’s absence has shackled Spanish strikeforce

THE Spanish team is grappling with questions and doubts after their first-game draw against Italy.

The absence of David Villa has left the world champions’ attack exposed as Fernando Torres struggled, failing to convert a number of chances in Sunday's 1-1 draw.

While Cesc Fabregas equalised after being handed a starting spot in attack, Spain's normally vibrant midfielders didn't press forward until after Antonio di Natale's opening goal.

In Spain, the spotlight was on Torres and whether coach Vicente del Bosque made the correct decision with his starting line-up, and what formation would be chosen for Thursday's Group C match against Ireland.

Spain held 60pc of possession but were largely outplayed in the first half when they failed to create much danger near goal.

Del Bosque's insertion of Fabregas failed to surprise Italy, and former Spain coach Luis Aragones said the team's lack of a traditional striker inside the box had allowed the Italians to repel the Spanish attacks.

“With Torres on the field and (Jesus) Navas on one wing and (Jordi) Alba on the other side, the Italian defence wasn't as comfortable as in the first half, when they cleared the ball with ease,” Aragones wrote in Spanish sports daily Marca.

AGREED

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, who attended the game, agreed with Aragones.

“Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc's touch passing isn't good if it doesn't create any danger in (Gianluigi) Buffon's area,” Mourinho said.

“The team looked sterile without a striker.”

Del Bosque offered no hint at whether he would alter his formation against the Irish with strikers Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo both ready to step in with Torres struggling.

Spain have also criticised the PGE Arena pitch for being too dry.

But the world champions will have to contend with such conditions for all their group games in Gdansk, with some of the team's normally outstanding players looking slow on the ball following a long club season.

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