MADRID (Reuters) – With Diego Costa suspended, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is likely to deploy Alvaro Morata in the striking role for the holders’ Euro 2016 qualifier against Group C minnows Luxembourg on Friday.
The Juventus forward was hailed as “the future of La Roja” after he scored in the 1-0 qualification victory against Ukraine in March and the 22-year-old former Real Madrid man is keen to impress after shaking off an early-season injury.
He struck in both of Juve’s opening Champions League Group D matches last month, including scoring the winner in a 2-1 success at Manchester City, having been instrumental in the Serie A side’s charge to the final of Europe’s elite club competition last term.
Spain can make sure of their place at the tournament in France next year with a win in Logrono and play their final qualifier against Ukraine in Kiev on Monday.
“There are a lot of players in the squad who have been here for only a short time,” Morata told reporters on Tuesday.
“But we still have the same excitement about winning and the same spirit,” he added. “I am feeling quite a bit better and I am pleased to be with Spain.”
Morata, who has one goal in five appearances for the national team, is one of several relative youngsters who Del Bosque hopes will help underpin Spain’s bid for an unprecedented third consecutive continental triumph.
Valencia forward Paco Alcacer, 22, is another option up front, while Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, 24, is back in the squad for the first time since March 2014 after a series of knee problems.
Del Bosque will need to mesh the fresher talent with some of his seasoned campaigners like Andres Iniesta, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas.
Spain have 21 points from their eight Group C matches, two ahead of Slovakia, who host Belarus on Friday.
Del Bosque’s men thumped Luxembourg 4-0 in October in the reverse fixture and won all four of their previous meetings, all friendlies, without conceding a goal.
The 2010 world champions are unbeaten in 31 home qualifiers, winning their last 16 in the European Championship since a 1-0 reverse to Greece in Zaragoza in June 2003.
Ukraine are third in the section on 16 points ahead of their match away to bottom side Macedonia.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)