Del Bosque defends Torres omission

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque defended his squad choice for tomorrow's friendly against Venezuela, marked by the absence of off-form Chelsea striker Fernando Torres.

"We regret that important players have been ruled out but others benefit," Del Bosque told a news conference today, on the eve of the match in Malaga. "There are no favourites in the squad. Everyone is equal."

Torres, 27, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the UEFA EURO 2008 final against Germany, has struggled since joining Chelsea last year, failing to score in his last 24 outings for the Premier League side. His absence marks the first time he has been overlooked by his country since he missed a friendly against Romania in November 2006.

Wednesday's friendly marks the final match for Spain before May, when Del Bosque is due to announce his squad for the UEFA EURO 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine. Del Bosque has stressed he may still make changes before deciding upon his 23-man squad for the competition in Ukraine and Poland.

For the Venezuela match, Valencia forward Roberto Soldado has been recalled for the first time since June 2007, in the absence of Barcelona's injured hitman David Villa. Athletic Bilbao's highly-rated youngster Iker Muniain has received his first senior call-up and will vie with Bilbao teammate Fernando Llorente and Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo for a spot up front.