Spain’s 2018 World Cup squad predicted: Who will join Ramos & Iniesta in 23-man list?

La Roja will be among the favourites in Russia and coach Julen Lopetegui has a wealth of talent from which to choose. So who will make the cut?

Spain are a team on form. By thrashing Argentina 6-1 in Madrid at the end of March, Julen Lopetegui’s side extended their unbeaten run to 18 games, and they will be one of the fancied sides in Russia this summer.

European champions in 2008 and 2012 and World Cup winners in 2010, Spain disappointed in their last two tournaments – crashing out in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup and losing in the last 16 of Euro 2016.

Coach Vicente del Bosque bowed out after the continental competition and Lopetegui took over, leading La Roja in an impressive qualifying campaign as they topped Group G with nine wins and a draw from their 10 games.

A 1-1 draw with Germany in Dusseldorf and then the resounding victory over Argentina in March continued the Basque boss’ unbeaten record and Spain have been identified as one of the principal candidates to lift the trophy in Moscow this July.

However, with an array of talent at his disposal, Lopetegui must first decide which players to take to Russia, with his initial list due on Monday and a final squad of 23 to be submitted by June 4. Here, Goal has a look at those most likely to make the cut…


On the plane


Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea is Spain’s undisputed first choice these days after Lopetegui decided to dispense with former captain Iker Casillas from day one, and young Athletic Club shot-stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga should be his reserve in Russia.

In defence, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique will both definitely be included. The Real Madrid captain is Spain’s skipper, while the Barcelona centre-back is also extremely important for La Roja and is bowing out after the World Cup.

In the full-back positions, Barca’s Jordi Alba and Madrid’s Dani Carvajal should also guaranteed of their places in the squad this summer.

Players able to cover in several positions are always useful, meanwhile, and that makes Nacho an almost certain inclusion – the dependable Madrid man is able to play all across the back line.

Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets, who was recently out injured, will be back in the fold and on the plane to Russia, along with his club colleague Andres Iniesta, who is leaving the Catalan club this summer and has said he will probably retire from international football after the World Cup.

Madrid pair Isco (who scored a superb hat-trick against Argentina) and Marco Asensio are also key for Lopetegui, along with Manchester City’s David Silva and Bayern Munich’s Thiago (also on target versus the Albiceleste). They all look to be assured of their places in the 23-man list, and they should be joined by Atletico Madrid duo Koke and Saul, with Lopetegui a big admirer of both players.

Further forward, only Diego Costa appears to be guaranteed a spot. The Atletico striker has not always convinced with Spain, but Lopetegui has persisted with the Brazil-born attacker and he netted the opener against Argentina. He is almost certain to be included in the final squad.


Potential picks


Veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina looks set to be named in the Spain squad for this summer’s competition in what is likely to be his final tournament at international level.

At the back, Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta could be involved either as a right-back or as another central defender if Lopetegui chooses to select the exciting Real Sociedad youngster Alvaro Odriozola. Barca’s Sergi Roberto is another possible pick, despite not being included for the games against Germany and Argentina.

Meanwhile, the Spain coach will have to decide between Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal and Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso on the left of the back four, with the latter having made his debut as a substitute against Argentina.

All of the midfield places appear to be taken, but Villarreal’s Rodri and Valencia’s Dani Parejo were in the squad for the Germany and Argentina friendlies and could feature if there is an injury to a key player ahead of the World Cup.

In attack, another Valencia player, Rodrigo, has impressed in his appearances and he scored a good goal against Germany in March. His inclusion looks likely at this stage, while Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata faces a fight for his place after being left out of the last list.

Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez and Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas were both in the squad for the last games in March and have a good chance of being involved for La Roja in Russia this summer. Aspas, in particular, did his hopes of a place no harm at all as he came off the bench to score and help set up two other goals in an impressive cameo against Argentina.


Long shots


Gerard Deulofeu Yannick Gerhardt Spain U21 Germany 30062017

Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico has lost his place at club level and now looks unlikely to have a chance of going to Russia, with Lopetegui set to keep faith in De Gea, Kepa and Reina anyway.

Marc Bartra, now at Betis, has featured under the Basque boss, but the former Barcelona defender is some way down the list and will probably be watching at home this summer, along with Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno.

Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi is in contention, but looks set to miss out due to the sheer amount of talent in that sector for Spain, while Manchester United’s Juan Mata has drifted out of the international picture since the arrival of Lopetegui.

Mata’s club colleague Ander Herrera has a better chance, but also appears unlikely to make the final cut, along with Suso, Luis Alberto and Jonathan Viera, all of whom have appeared in the past 12 months for Spain.

Article continues below

David Villa returned to the fold last year in a friendly, but his comeback was cut short by injury and the New York City FC striker is now unlikely to feature again for the national team.

Another veteran, Athletic’s Aritz Aduriz, also seems surplus to requirements following a run of appearances in 2017, while Chelsea’s Pedro is no longer as important as he used to be for La Roja and has only an outside chance of making the squad now.

Atletico’s Vitolo and Napoli’s Jose Callejon, who both featured against Russia in November, are long shots as well, along with Gerard Deulofeu, the Barca winger shipped out on loan to Watford after a disappointing first half of the season with the Catalan club.