Madrid: Spain's disjointed preparations for their European Championship title defense get under way on Saturday with an international friendly against Serbia in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
The World Cup champions are without their core squad of Barcelona regulars and the Athletic Bilbao players since the Spanish clubs meet in the Copa del Rey final on Friday.
That has led coach Vicente del Bosque to mix established players with a number of uncapped call-ups against Serbia as the veteran coach seeks a solution for the void left by the injuries to striker David Villa and defender Carles Puyol.
Most perplexing about Spain's Euro 2012 preparations is that the Spanish federation did not attempt to move the domestic cup final forward, citing a congested fixture calendar for the late date. Friday's date was fixed with the idea that either Barcelona or Real Madrid - or both - would reach last Saturday's Champions League final, which neither did.
"It's not something I can control, that was an issue for the Spanish federation," Del Bosque said. "It's true it's left us with a different type of situation."
Del Bosque will release his list of the final 23-man squad on Sunday, with Barcelona and Athletic's players joining Spain just before its friendly against South Korea on Wednesday. All players will be available for its final warmup against China on June 3. Spain opens play in Poland and Ukraine against Group C rival Italy on June 10.
"All the sensations are positive. The group here is working well together," defender Sergio Ramos said.
The match against Serbia at the AFG Arena provides strikers such as Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo and Adrian Lopez a chance to secure their spot in the final Euro 2012 squad. Chelsea pair Fernando Torres and Juan Mata are not expected to play.
While Spain is without all-time leading scorer Villa, Puyol's absence also makes it unclear whether Ramos will be playing at fullback or center back, a position he was converted into by Jose Mourinho at Madrid.
"I was a European and world champion at fullback so it's a position I know well," Ramos said, "but I'm more comfortable in the center."
Atletico's Juanfran Torres and Malaga's Ignacio Monreal are looking to challenge Valencia's Jordi Alba for a spot on the left side of the defense.
Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic makes his debut with a new-look squad that is preparing for September's World Cup qualifiers.
"There is no need for us to waste our time and analyze the Spanish players," said new arrival Dejan Lekic, who plays striker at Spanish club Osasuna. "Although they will not be playing with their strongest team, we have to treat them with the highest respect. Still, we have enough quality to mount a strong resistance."
Mihajlovic, a former Inter Milan defender, is without Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic and Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic, both out with injury, although both announced they were retiring from international football after failing to qualify for Euro 2012.
"We are starting from scratch, and what better start could we have than against champions Spain," Mihajlovic said.