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Croatia game gives Spain last chance to experiment

Written by: Staff

GENEVA, June 6 (Reuters) Spain coach Luis Aragones gets his last chance to experiment before the World Cup against fellow qualifiers Croatia in a warm-up match in Geneva tomorrow.

The 67-year-old has several difficult decisions to make before Spain begin their campaign against debutants Ukraine in Leipzig on June 14.

Aragones's major dilemma is whether to opt for the grit of a defensive central midfield combination of David Albelda and Marcos Senna or the guile and touch of players like Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

He also has to decide if he can make space for the in-form Jose Antonio Reyes up front or keep faith with Fernando Torres, David Villa and Raul.

Reyes has gone on record as saying he is not willing to settle for a bit-part role but the Arsenal forward said Aragones's preferred 4-3-3 formation would make it difficult for him to force his way in.

SALGADO INJURY ''We've been playing with a particular system all week and that will make it hard for me to play,'' Reyes told reporters today.

At the back, Michel Salgado is likely to be given a run-out against Croatia after recovering from a thigh injury, while Argentine-born defender Mariano Pernia should win his first cap after being called into the squad to replace the injured Asier del Horno.

Salgado, who missed out on Euro 2004 because of injury, was delighted to be fit again.

''At last my moment has come,'' he said. ''I'm really looking forward to it and am approaching this with all the hope in the world that I can achieve something really important.'' With Iker Casillas the number one choice in goal, Aragones will give reserve keepers Santiago Canizares and Pepe Reina a chance to sharpen their reactions in the friendly.

''We've got 23 players but only 11 can play and it is going to be very difficult to play everyone,'' said Aragones.

''I want all the players to play well to make it hard for me to select the team.'' Croatia's opening World Cup game is against Group F rivals Brazil on June 13.


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