Mata in for strong-looking Spain as they chase Olympic gold

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Spain could cap a memorable football year if following up their Euro 2012 success with Olympic gold and given the strength of the squad picked by Luis Milla, 11/5 looks a steal of a price for this achievement.

Milla has the luxury of calling up three of the victorious members of the Euro 2012 squad, including scorers in the final Juan Mata and Jordi Alba, with Javi Martinez the other inclusion.

Four players still need to be cut from the current 22, but there is a real possibility that 12 of the players would have represented Spain when they triumphed at last year’s under-21 European Championships.

Adrian Lopez, who top-scored with five goals at the finals is in, but given that he considered similar to David Villa, he may operate wide to allow Benfica’s Rodrigo to take the striker berth.

Rodrigo already has seven goals in just six caps for the Spanish under-21s.

Along with Lopez, competition is rife out wide, with Iker Munian and promising Barcelona youngster Christian Tello among the options.

Mata could also play here or operate more centrally, where he will battling with Chelsea teammate Oriol Romeu and both goalscorers from the 2-0 triumph over Switzerland in the under-21 final Ander Herrera and Thiago Alcantara.

David De Gea will start in goal, while Alba and Martinez will be joined in defence by Cesar Azpilicueta, who cost Marseille close to £10m in 2010.

Spain’s Olympic pedigree is also good, as they claimed gold in 1992 and were beaten finalists on their last appearance in 2000 when losing on penalties to Cameroon.

Meanwhile, their current squad looks stronger than that which participated in 2000 and the players are more than able to follow the style that has become synonymous with the senior Spanish team and Barcelona in recent years.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.