The battle between Croatia and Spain in Gdansk is being tipped as one of the games of Euro 2012, for more than one reason.
Excluding the fact Croatia have lost just three of their previous 29 international matches and are set to meet defending champions Spain for the first time in a competitive fixture on Monday, this Group C fixture is serving up an interesting scenario.
Both nations are locked on four points having earned a draw and secured a victory in their opening two matches, with rivals Italy on two points and scheduled to play the Republic of Ireland in Poznan.
Spain require a draw against Croatia but should the game end a 2-2 draw, both sides would progress at the expense of Italy, irrespective of the result Cesare Prandelli’s men achieve against Ireland.
The possible situation has created suggestions Spain and Croatia will settle for a 2-2 draw to help guarantee their passages to the quarter-finals but both parties have rubbished those rumours.
Croatia are winless in three previous friendlies against Spain, their only win coming courtesy of a 2-0 success in 1994.
And Slaven Bilic’s men will be looking to lethal Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic for inspiration.
Mandzukic has bagged three goals in two games at the championships, and if he can continue to link up with midfield magician Luka Modric, Croatia stand a good chance of progressing to their second successive European quarter-final.
However, Modric will need support throughout the midfield to combat Spain’s dominant possession game.
Vicente del Bosque’s reigning world and European champions set a new record for most passes – 860 – at the championships following their 4-0 drubbing of Ireland.
The biggest headache for del Bosque will be whether to stick with Fernando Torres, who scored twice against Giovanni Trapattoni’s men, or revert to a ‘false nine’ with Cesc Fabregas.
Sergio Busquets is expected to line up at the PGE Arena despite suffering from concussion against Ireland.
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