Xavi ‘will not be forced to play’, says Del Bosque

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque on Monday said that Xavi Hernandez will only play against France in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier if he feels ready to do so.

The Barcelona midfielder, such an important element of the European and world champions’ side, missed last Friday’s 1-1 draw with Finland in Gijon because of a hamstring problem.

His fragile fitness has been a constant source of concern for both club and country in recent times, and while Del Bosque is confident the 33-year-old will be able to feature, he insisted that no chances will be taken.

“Nobody will be forced to play. If Xavi plays, he will do so because he and the doctors say he is ready to do so,” said the Spain coach at a press conference in Paris.

“We have one more training session and it will be up to our medical team and Barcelona’s medical team to decide whether he can play.

“He looks in good shape, but we have 21 players. They are not all of quite the same level, but it does mean we have plenty of options.”

Tuesday’s match at the Stade de France is a must-win for Spain, who trail France in Group I of European qualifying for next year’s World Cup by two points.

After drawing their last two games, another slip-up would leave the holders staring at the prospect of a two-legged play-off to qualify for Brazil.

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