Verdict: Over 3,5 goals – yes
Best Odds: 7/5
Spain will begin their preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at home. La Furia Roja will host Costa Rica this Saturday at Estadio La Rosaleda in Malaga. The ball will start rolling at 20:30 BST, and Anastasios Sidiropoulos will be the referee.
Spain enjoyed a stellar qualifying campaign in Europe, and the numbers back them up. La Furia Roja tallied 28 out of a possible 30 points, winning nine games and drawing once against Italy. They scored 36 goals and allowed just three over that span. To put that into context, they were the second-best attack behind Germany, and the top defence alongside England. But Julen Lopetegui is not pleased yet, because he knows any other result that is not a World Cup title will be a massive disappointment considering the squad he has at his disposal. Fortunately for him there are several months left before the start of the World Cup, so this is the perfect time to make adjustments to the side and test players to see whether they fit or not on the World Cup plans next year. The talent is certainly there. Now Lopetegui needs to put it together.
Spain will have a few absentees ahead of this game. Real Madrid’s full-back Dani Carvajal, Atletico Madrid’s playmaker Koke, and Las Palmas’ winger Jonathan Viera are all out due to injury. Atletico’s striker Diego Costa remains out of favour since he is yet to play following his transfer from Chelsea to Los Colchoneros.
Alvaro Odriozola will likely start instead of Carvajal, while Thiago Alcantara will take Koke’s place in midfield.
Costa Rica’s qualifying campaign wasn’t as flashy as Spain’s, but we can not take merits away from what Los Ticos have done in the CONCACAF region. Oscar Ramirez’s men finished in second place in the CONCACAF final stage, behind Mexico but over Panama, Honduras, and United States. That’s not an easy feat, and Los Ticos have become the team’s second best team in the region behind El Tri – and rightfully so. After all, they reached the quarterfinals in the World Cup four years ago, and they want to see whether they can top that mark on Russian soil. It will be extremely hard to evaluate them in this game considering all their absences, but playing against a team as good as Spain can only bring benefits to the CONCACAF giants. This is the only way they will find out whether they can compete with the big boys or not. The recent results have not been kind to them – one draw and two losses in their last three matches – but this game represents the perfect opportunity for a bounce-back performance.
Unfortunately for Costa Rica fans, the team will be quite depleted ahead of this game. Star goalkeeper Keylor Navas, playmaker Bryan Ruiz and centre-back Johnny Acosta are all out due to injury, so Los Ticos won’t have three of their most experienced elements for this game.
Patrick Pemberton, Cristian Gamboa and Rodney Wallace should replace Navas, Acosta and Ruiz, respectively.
Key Factors to Consider
- Spain are undefeated against Costa Rica in the previous two meetings between both countries, registering one win and one draw.
- La Furia Roja are riding an impressive streak of results, however. They ended the UEFA Qualifying campaign undefeated thanks to nine wins and one draw. They scored 36 goals and conceded just three over that span.
- Costa Rica have not been bad themselves of late. Los Ticos finished their Qualifying campaign in second place in the CONCACAF region. They finished behind Mexico, but over Panama, Honduras and USA.
However, recent results have not been kind for Los Ticos since they are riding a three-game winless streak with two draws and one defeat in the last three World Cup Qualifying matches.
- Spain will play for the x time in Estadio La Rosaleda, Malaga. They have played eight times there, registering five wins and three draws. Spain have won their last three matches on that venue, though.
Spain should have a clear edge in this game. They are the better team on paper, are riding better form, and they will take on a lesser opponent that won’t have three of their most experienced, talented players. That should be more than enough to give them the win.
Spain should cruise in this one and we could easily see over 3,5 goals overall.
Verdict: Over 3,5 goals – yes
Best Odds: 7/5
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