Shining at Chelsea, Pedro returns to Spain squad

Julen Lopetegui, pictured above. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

BARCELONA, Spain — With Chelsea running away from its challengers in the Premier League, forward Pedro Rodriguez has regained his spot on Spain’s national team.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui picked Pedro on Friday for the country’s upcoming World Cup qualifier against Israel and friendly at France. It is the first time the coach has included the 29-year-old Pedro since taking over from Vicente del Bosque following last year’s European Championship.

"Pedro is one of the old guard of the selection," Lopetegui said. "He is playing very well, is at the perfect age, and is having a leading role at Chelsea."

Pedro has scored 11 goals and excelled as a playmaker this season to help Chelsea move 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Pedro was one of Del Bosque's most trusted members of a Spain side that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Since debuting in 2010, Pedro has scored 17 goals in 60 appearances for Spain. His last match was Spain's 2-0 loss to Italy in the last at Euro 2016.

Pedro won three Champions League titles and five Spanish league titles at Barcelona before his lack of playing time gave him incentives to move to London in 2015.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa joins Pedro to lead Spain's attack along with Alvaro Morata, Iago Aspas and Victor "Vitolo" Machin.

Lopetegui gave Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi his first call-up to the national team at 27, and recalled former Barcelona youth star Gerard Deulofeu.

Currently at AC Milan on loan from Everton, Deulofeu played his only match for Spain in 2014.

Spain hosts Israel in Gijon on March 24, and four days later plays France in Saint-Denis.

Spain leads its World Cup qualifying group after three wins and draw, leaving it ahead of Italy on goal difference at the top of Group G. Israel is in third place with nine points.

"We have a strong rival ahead of us that plays football very well and with three very important points in play," Lopetegui said of Israel.

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Spain:

Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)

Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Ignacio Monreal (Arsenal), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Ander Herrera (Manchester United), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Francisco "Isco" Alarcon (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City)

Forwards: Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea), Diego Costa (Chelsea), Gerard Deulofeu (AC Milan), Victor "Vitolo" Machin (Sevilla), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)