Julen Lopetegui

Madrid, March 17 (IANS) Spain chief coach Julen Lopetegui on Friday recalled key footballers to his squad for the forthcoming 2018 World Cup qualifying game at home against Israel and the friendly with France away.

Defenders Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, who were both injured for the last internationals in November, return to the side, along with Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Chelsea striker Diego Costa, who were also unable to play four months ago because of physical problems, reports Xinhua news agency.

Chelsea forward Pedro Rodriguez, who had not been named by Lopetegui since he replaced Vicente del Bosque as national team coach last summer, also earns a recall.

Former Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu, who is well known to Lopetegui since his time as Spain Under-21 coach, and Real Sociedad midfielder, Asier Illaramendi are also in the squad.

Deulofeu, who now plays for AC Milan, played 12 minutes in a World Cup preparation game in 2014 and makes his second appearance, while Illaramendi makes his debut.

Meanwhile, Marc Bartra, Inigo Martinez, Aritz Aduriz, Sergio Escudero, Juan Mata, Lucas Vazquez, Nolito and Jose Callejon are all dropped from Lopetegui’s previous squad.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Pepe Reina, Sergio Rico

Defenders: Nacho Fernandez, Dani Carvajal, Javi Martinez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nacho Monreal, Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta.

Midfielders: Ander Herrera, Asier Illarramendi, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Isco, Thiago Alcantara, David Silva, Andres Iniesta.

Forwards: Alvaro Morata, Gerard Deulofeu, Vitolo, Diego Costa, Pedro Rodriguez, Iago Aspas.

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