La Roja

Getty Images

Kepa replaces De Gea as Spain starting goalkeeper

Leave a comment

There’s a clear new starting goalkeeper for the Spanish National Team.

After three straight starts, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has taken the mantle of Spain’s No. 1 goalkeeper from Manchester United’s David De Gea. According to Spanish publication Marca, the decision likely came from both assistant and interim coach Robert Moreno and Spain head coach Luis Enrique, through mobile correspondence over the past few weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Kepa started at the Faroe Islands in a 4-1 win last Friday for Spain on the road and he’s followed that with a start at home against Sweden. Kepa had made his first start in this run in a 2-0 win at Malta. All three matches have been for Euro 2020 qualification.

The move away from de Gea comes after a number of factors. De Gea has had, by all accounts, a rough season with Man United, especially as the team struggled through the last two months of the Premier League season. In April alone, his three errors in four games cost his team victories, and were so out of character compared with how he had played in the past. It’s as if all the pressure he had absorbed over the years had finally caused the dam to break.

At the same time, de Gea was in goal as Spain finished second in their UEFA Nations League group in 2018, including defeats to both England and Croatia.

At the same time, Kepa has had a very strong season in his first campaign at Chelsea, leading the side to third place in the league and stepping into goal for the UEFA Europa League final. It’s a deserved promotion for Kepa, even if it’s a tough demotion for de Gea.

The Man United goalkeeper, at 28-years old, could still have a future at the national team level. However, he’ll have to be happy to play second fiddle yet again after three years as the Spain No. 1.

Barcelona’s Pique jeered at Spain training

Getty Images
1 Comment

Gerard Pique is feeling the heat from Madrid-based soccer fans.

The Barcelona defender, who voted in Sunday’s Catalonian independence referendum and has on numerous occasions declared his support for an independent Catalonian state, took the field with the Spanish National Team in Madrid on Monday and was roundly jeered and booed by the fans in attendance.

Many fans brought signs with phrases against Pique and he was whistled when he walked on and off the field. The training session lasted just 23 minutes.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Pique was in tears after Barcelona’s win on Sunday over Las Palmas, which was played in front of an empty Camp Nou stadium.

“I think I can continue. But if the board really thinks I’m a problem, I will take a step back and leave the national team before 2018,” Pique reportedly said after the game. “There are many people in Spain who disagree with what happened today and believe in democracy. The board tried to suspend the match, but it wasn’t possible. We debated it and the club decided we should play. I am and I feel Catalan, today more than ever. I am proud of the behavior of the people of Catalonia. Voting is a right that must be defended.”

It’s still up in the air over whether the former Manchester United defender will start for Spain in its upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Spain faces Albania on Friday in Alicante, a little more than five hours south of Barcelona.

From there, Spain finishes the first stage of World Cup qualifying on October 9 against Israel in Jerusalem.

Morata could miss up to six weeks with hamstring injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alvaro Morata could be facing a spell on the sidelines through the middle of November.

The Spanish Football Federation announced that it had dropped Morata from its national team squad for a pair of World Cup qualifiers because he had suffered a grade two hamstring tear. Morata limped off during Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

According to The Guardian, the standard recovery time for a grade two hamstring injury is anywhere from four to six weeks, meaning Morata could miss both of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League matches against AS Roma and potentially the match against Manchester United on November 5. Following that match is the final international break of the year, where Morata can take advantage of two more weeks without club action.

The injury news is a big blow to both Chelsea and Spain. For Chelsea, Morata has scored seven goals in eight appearances this season in all competitions, while for Spain he leads the line in a team that has been starved the last couple of years for dependable strikers.

Chelsea will likely start Michy Batshuayi in Morata’s place but it’s possible that Antonio Conte could use a “false 9” formation with six midfielders and four defenders to confuse opposing defenses.