Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has named an experienced squad for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in Israel which kick off in just under a fortnight.
The reigning champions will travel to the tournament boasting five players who took part in the successful 2011 campaign, namely Manchester United FC goalkeeper and U21 captain David de Gea, FC Barcelona's Thiago Alcántara and Martín Montoya, plus Iker Muniain of Athletic Club and Villarreal CF's Diego Mariño. A recent debutant for the senior Spain team, Málaga CF's Isco, along with fellow full international Thiago, will also feature at the U21 finals as opposed to travelling to the FIFA Confederations Cup, which also takes place in June.
Speaking after the squad announcement, Lopetegui said that the challenge facing his side – who begin their title defence against Russia before next taking on Germany and the Netherlands in Group B – will be a stern one. "The three national teams we will face in the group stage are all very competitive and contain players with a lot of experience who have featured for their seniors. We have a wonderful challenge ahead of us."
La Rojita qualified for the finals – which take place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya and Petah Tikva – with a near perfect record of nine wins and a draw and will travel to their base camp in Israel on 3 June, three days before their opening game. "[This tournament] is a very attractive one and contains some really big names," Lopetegui added. "The feelings are very positive, [and when I travelled there three months ago, I saw] two brand new stadiums and others that had been renovated."
Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United FC), Diego Mariño (Villarreal CF), Joel (Wigan Athletic FC)*.
Defenders: Marc Bartra (FC Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Nacho Fernández (Real Madrid CF), Álvaro (Real Zaragoza), Iñigo Martínez (Real Sociedad de Fútbol), Marc Muniesa (FC Barcelona), Martín Montoya (FC Barcelona), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla FC).
Midfielders: Thiago Alcántara (FC Barcelona), Ignacio Camacho (Málaga CF), Sergio Canales (Valencia CF), Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad de Fútbol), Isco (Málaga CF), Koke (Club Atlético de Madrid), Pablo Sarabia (Getafe CF).
Forwards: Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid CF), Rodrigo (SL Benfica), Iker Muniain (Athletic Club), Cristian Tello (FC Barcelona), Álvaro Vázquez (Getafe CF).
* On loan from Club Atlético de Madrid
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