World Cup watch: Arbeloa and Ozil injured, Prandelli likes England
Two of the tournament favourites for this summer’s World Cup in Spain (7/1) and Germany (11/2) have injury doubts over senior players.
Real Madrid and former Liverpool full back Alvaro Arbeloa will be sidelined for “six to eight weeks” with a knee injury. The 31-year-old, who has 56 caps for Spain and been to the last five tournaments they have participated in, admitted the problem is “worse than thought”.
As Arbeloa now faces a race against time to return to full fitness for Brazil, La Roja coach Vicente del Bosque may opt to take Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal or highly-rated Sevilla player Alberto Moreno as cover for Jordi Alba at left back.
The last Spain squad contained Atletico Madrid late bloomer Juanfran Torres and Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta, who both naturally play on the right flank of defence. Del Bosque also has Gerard Pique to return to the back four.
Joachim Low, meanwhile, will be sweating on the fitness of Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil after he came off during their Champions League last 16 exit to Bayern Munich at half time with a hamstring injury.
Ozil, 25, now faces more than a month out. He was booed by his own fans when last on Germany duty earlier in March against Chile, following a series of lacklustre displays for his club side.
Loss of form for Ozil, who has 53 caps and 17 goals for his country, may put his place on the plane in jeopardy. Low has several talented youngsters, including Julian Draxler, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, who can play off the front.
In other Germany news, striker Mario Gomez came off the bench for club team Fiorentina to score his first goal since returning from a lengthy layoff.
Finally, Italy national coach Cesare Prandelli thinks first Word Cup opponents England “have improved a lot” since the Azzurri last played them competitively. The Three Lions bowed out of Euro 2012 in a penalty shoot-out at the quarter-final stage.
“[England] have discovered new players, especially the wingers, and athletic players who run a lot,” said Prandelli. Coral rate four-time winners Italy slightly more likely to go all the way at 25/1. Roy Hodgson’s side are 28/1 to win the World Cup.
Prandelli and his Azzurri team are 11/8 favourites to win their opening encounter with the Three Lions in the Amazonian climate of Manaus. If punters feel patriotic, then back England for victory on June 14th at 2/1.