Carles Puyol's return to the Spain squad after a lengthy injury layoff drew warm words of support from coach Vicente del Bosque and captain Iker Casillas yesterday.

Puyol (second from right) during a training session in Madrid

The shaggy-haired Barcelona defender has been a fixture in the centre of the Spanish defence during their recent successes at Euro 2008 and in the 2010 World Cup, but a knee injury has kept him on the sidelines for the last eight months.

The 33-year-old last appeared for Spain in the 4-0 friendly defeat against Portugal 11 months ago, but is likely to earn his 95th cap in the Euro qualifiers either against the Czech Republic in Prague tonight or in Alicante against Scotland next Tuesday.

"We are pleased and very happy for him, because we know he has suffered a lot, and mainly in silence," Casillas told a news conference in Prague. "He is a reference for everyone, who comes into the national team for his professionalism."