Martinez: Spain the ones to beat

Javi Martinez believes that Spain’s duty in qualifying is to match the motivation of their opponents, as La Roja remain the team to beat.

Vicente del Bosque’s side are preparing for a double-header of qualifying during the international break, with matches UEFA Group I clashes away to Belarus and at home to France.

For Martinez, the task is to be prepared for the opposition, who carry an extra motivation to beat the World and double European champions.

“I agree with what Juanfran said. Spain are the team to beat, it is an extra motivation for the opposition and for ourselves we must match that, we have to motivated as well,” he told reporters today.

“Much of the qualification is at stake, a win would be an important step, it is important to continue on our current path – it seems that it is now easier to win matches but it is not.”

Most attention is being drawn to next Tuesday’s meeting with France at the Vicente Calderon stadium as being decisive.

“They have continued with a nucleus of players from last year, players with great potential. It will be very difficult, they are a difficult opponent and they are a power of European football that are going to make us sweat.”

Gerard Pique wasn’t selected in the squad and with just Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol as identified centre-backs, speculation is that Martinez will feature in the centre of defence too.

“Last year thanks to Marcelo Bielsa I acted as cover in defence and grew into that position. At first I struggled but I then got used to it.

“I’m playing as a midfielder for Bayern and I’m available to the Coach. I have not spoken with him yet, but it would not cost me to move back to defence and I will be happy to play there if needed.”

Martinez could be up against Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema next week.

“It will be difficult to stop [Karim] Benzema, it will be difficult for everyone, just as it will be difficult to score.

“I suffered last year with Athletic against him, he is hard to mark and strikes the ball well with both feet.”

Pique’s absence in the squad was matched by Juan Mata’s and also that of Fernando Llorente.

“That a player like Mata is not in the squad shows how hard it is to be selected and the quality that is available in this squad. He is one of the five best players in the Premier League in my opinion.

“We cannot all be selected, surely many deserve it, but he is very strong psychologically and he will improve and be a major player, so as to convince the Coach and try to return to the national team.

“Llorente is a winner, that he is not here is painful for him, but he knows that he has to play in the Athletic team to earn a spot. I think that he is among the top strikers in the world and when he reaches his best he will bring us much joy again.”

Martinez is a few weeks into his Bundesliga adventure with Bayern Munich and was asked how that experience is going.

“I have been fortunate to move to a big club, everything is different – the city, the language, the people… but I was pleasantly surprised by how I have been received, from day one they have been welcoming and it makes you feel very happy.

“I am glad to have made the decision and I hope that the best is yet to come.”

Tags Bielsa Javi Martinez Llorente Mata Spain