Cesc Fabregas has stressed Spain will give everything to see off Croatia in Tuesday’s Euro 2016 encounter in order to top Group D.
The reigning champions have already booked their ticket for the round of 16 following wins over Czech Republic and Turkey and are expected to rest a number of key figures.
Nevertheless, Fabregas is adamant they will not take things easy in the encounter in Bordeaux.
“We have been playing very well, with a certain freedom and fluency. We have been defending very well and that allows us to be fresher going forward,” Fabregas said at a news conference.
“This next game is very important, even more than people can imagine. It’s crucial for us to be first in the group. It will be determinant for the rest of the tournament.
“We got off to a good start. We have been playing well until now, but it’s still early.
“We will see what we can do once the knockout stages start. We are very pleased with our performances so far, but we have only just started.”
Sergio Ramos is the only Spain player who faces a suspension if he picks up a booking versus Croatia, who will qualify for the knockout stages if they get at least a draw.
Ante Cacic’s team could even be guaranteed progression with a defeat if Czech Republic fail to beat Turkey on matchday three.
Nevertheless, Ivan Rakitic has made it clear Croatia – who could be without influential midfielder Luka Modric due to a groin injury – will not settle for a draw as they have set their sights on top spot in their section, too.
“We want to be top of the group, the same as Spain,” Rakitic told reporters.
“That way, the draw works out better afterwards.
“We won’t have pressure [on us], though. A draw is not bad.”
A number of Croatia players are at risk of picking up a suspension, with Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Strinic and Domagoj Vida all one booking away from a ban.
Spain and Croatia met in the last edition of the Euros in 2012 – their only clash in a major tournament – with Spain claiming a 1-0 victory courtesy of an 88th-minute winner from Jesus Navas.
Key Opta stats:
– This will be the sixth meeting between Spain and Croatia; Spain have won three of the previous five meetings, while Croatia have won just once.
– Croatia have lost only one of their last eight group games at the European championship.
– Spain are unbeaten in 14 games at the Euros (winning 11, drawing three), and haven’t conceded a goal in 690 minutes of action.
– Andres Iniesta has made 177 successful passes in the competition so far, more than any other Spain player.
– If Darijo Srna plays, it will be his 17th game at a major tournament with Croatia, a new record.
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