José Antonio Camacho named an 18 man squad for next Wednesday's friendly match against Northern Ireland in Belfast. Back to the side come Mendieta, Albelda and Baraja (all Valencia or ex), and out go César (who is injured), Capi, Tiko and Vicente, who has lost his place at Valencia to Kily González and appears to have been replaced in the national side by De Pedro. At first sight the team appears short of central defenders, but Camacho has said that he prefers Puyol to play in the middle, and with his other favourites either injured or off form, Iván Helguera could be asked to play in the back four.
This will be the last game before the World Cup warm up matches begin at the end of May, and the manager has said that all of the players named for this fixture will be in his final squad of 23 for Korea and Japan. The debate starts now as to who the other five players will be. One will surely be a goalkeeper, and with no new faces this time around, the favourite must be Valladolid's Ricardo who has played a couple of times this season, although Málaga's Contreras, Real Madrid's César and even Deportivo's Molina could be outsiders for the post. Sergi will probably be in once he recovers from his injury, and Camacho could take another central defender: pick one from César, Abelardo, Téllez and Paco.
In midfield the big question is whether Guardiola will be selected or not. That depends though on his form at Brescia. However most people think that the versatile Luis Enrique is a must, especially as he can play anywhere from full back to centre forward, and there may not be room for both. Alternatives would be any of the three youngsters who played against Holland, Tiko, Capi or Vicente. That would leave a place for an extra attacker, with three principle candidates, Urzaiz, Munitis and possibly Tamudo. Not forgetting Catanha, Javi Moreno, Guti, José Mari, Salva and a host of others. All will be clear in a month or so. (12.04.02)
The full squad for Belfast is as follows:
Keepers: Casillas (Real Madrid), Cañizares (Valencia).
Defenders: Puyol (Barcelona), Juanfran (Celta), Nadal (Mallorca), Hierro and Iván Helguera (Real Madrid), Curro Torres (Valencia).
Midfielders: Joaquín (Betis), Sergio and Valerón (Deportivo), Mendieta (Lazio), De Pedro (Real Sociedad), Albelda and Baraja (Valencia).
Forwards: Diego Tristán (Deportivo), Morientes and Raúl (Real Madrid).