PORTUGAL vs SPAIN: Two cracking teams, one cracking encounter. Portugal vs Spain is certainly going to be a humdinger. Spain suffered a massive setback when their coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked two days before the World Cup. The former Spanish goalkeeper will now be replaced by Fernando Hierro who’s got his work cut out. There’s no denying Spain’s quality and also that they’ll put up a stellar performance but the manager’s role is extremely crucial & more so in the grandest stage of them all. Portugal, on the other hand, have some dextrous footballers who can’t be taken for granted. The winner of this fixture will move a step closer to the round of 16. Who’s it going to be? The 2016 Euro Champions or the 2010 World Champions?
Games played: 35, Portugal: 6, Spain: 16, Draw: 13
JOURNEY TO THE WORLD CUP 2018
Spain were part of Group G at the World Cup qualifiers. La Roja won 9 of their 10 games and conceded only 3 goals throughout the qualifiers. A sturdy defence, a masterly midfield and a potent attack. If the Spaniards play to their potential there’ll be no stopping them.
Portugal also were immaculate with their defensive record at the qualifiers, conceding only 4 in the ten games played. Also called “The Navigators”, the Portuguese legion lived up to their reputation, winning 9 of their allotted 10 games. How far can they navigate in the 21st edition?
Dani Carvajal has returned to training following a hamstring injury in the Champions League finals. Alvaro Odriozola is a probable starter. He’ll take the right-back slot.
Portugal have no injury concerns. Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo form a lethal attack while Pepe & Jose Fonte form a powerful rearguard.
EXPECTED PLAYING XI’s
GoalKeeper: Rui Patricio
Defenders: Pepe, Bruno Alves/Jose Fonte, Cedric Soares, Raphael Guerriero
Midfielders: Bernardo Silva, Joao Mario, William Carvalho, Goncalo Guedes
Strikers: Andre Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo
GoalKeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Alvaro Odriozola
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Thiago Alacantara, David Silva
Strikers: Diego Costa
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Cristiano Ronaldo was directly involved in more goals than any other player in the 2018 European World Cup qualifiers with 18 goals. He scored 15 and made a further three. However, his record against Spain has been abysmal. Ronaldo has never scored against Spain in 340 minutes.
Only England(3) and Spain (3) conceded fewer goals than Portugal (4) in the UEFA qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.
Spain have qualified for their 15th World Cup and their 11th in a row. Their longest ever streak of participation.
Spain have finished top of their group in three of their last four World Cups. However, they have won only two of their last 12 opening games in the tournament. They’ve lost 7 and have drawn 3.
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