- Associated Press - Friday, September 29, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Veteran striker David Villa was dropped by Spain on Friday for its last World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.

Coach Julen Lopetegui recalled the 35-year-old Villa last month after a three-year absence from the national side. But the New York City striker played only the final minutes of a 3-0 win over Italy before he was sidelined by a muscle injury during training. That meant he missed Spain’s 8-0 rout of Lichtenstein.

“Villa has been slowed down by the injury and he doesn’t have the pace he had before. That’s the only reason (he was dropped),” Lopetegui said.

Lopetegui recalled Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi, Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno, and Napoli forward Jose Callejon to his squad.

Spain leads Europe Group G with 22 points after winning seven and drawing one of its eight qualifiers. Italy is next with 19 points. Albania is third with 13, followed by Israel with nine.

Spain hosts Albania on Oct. 6 and visits Israel three days later.

The group winner qualifies for the tournament in Russia next summer. The second-place finisher must hope to go through a playoff.

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Spain:

Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli)

Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Francisco “Isco” Alarcon (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid)

Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Jose Callejon (Napoli), Rodrigo Moreno (Valencia), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea), Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea)

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