MADRID (AP) — Spain coach Vicente del Bosque recalled Bayern Munich midfielder Javi Martinez on Friday to patch up his weakened defense for the World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and France.
Del Bosque said the two matches, which come a week after an always intense meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid, were "vitally important" to the world champion's bid to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive major title.
"These are vitally important games, Belarus especially. Any slip-up could cost us dearly," Del Bosque said. "There shouldn't be any relaxation after the 'clasico' match. This is not a long competition, it is a short one. The classification (for the World Cup) is in play."
Martinez is the only change to the squad from Spain's opening win at Georgia. The former Athletic Bilbao player replaced the injured Gerard Pique. Spain will also be without fellow center back Carles Puyol after he dislocated an elbow this week.
"With Javi Martinez, we have more alternatives," said Del Bosque. "He can play box to box. We will use him where we feel it is convenient."
Spain will be led by eight Barcelona players, including midfielders Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi Hernandez. Madrid is next with five players.
Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla and Manchester City playmaker David Silva also returned, along with Chelsea striker Fernando Torres to accompany David Villa up front.
Torres' teammate, Juan Mata, didn't make the squad despite his good start to the season. Del Bosque said there "wasn't enough room" for Mata.