Thursday, November 15, 2018

Prediction: Spain vs Russia

Verdict: Home win

Best Odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: William Hill

Spain were quite fortunate to finish top of Group B after avoiding defeat to Morocco with a last-gasp goal, but they are still favourites to beat the 2018 World Cup hosts and qualify for the quarter-finals. Russia, on the other hand, started strongly before they were hammered by Uruguay, and they, too, will be looking to show some improvement.

Spain

Spain’s run of three successive major titles came to an abrupt end as they crashed out of the 2014 World Cup in group stage, while they also failed to impress at the Euro 2016, losing to Italy in the first knockout stage. With Julen Lopetegui leaving the squad just as the 2018 World Cup was about to start, Spain found themselves in all sorts of problems, and their first three games in Russia went on to prove that La Furia Roja were far from the desired form.

Spain probably produced their best performance of the tournament so far in the opening fixture against Portugal that ended all squared (3-3), while they were well below par in the 1-0 victory over Iran, with Diego Costa again coming to the rescue. Spain then somehow managed to hold Morocco to a 2-2 draw in their final fixture, winning the first place in the group, but we can safely say that was much more than they deserved. It is perfectly clear that this team have got more potential than they are showing and they are rightly considered favourites against Russia, but much will depend on how La Furia Roja approach this game.

Team News

With no fresh selection worries, Fernando Hierro could field an unchanged side to that which shared spoils with Morocco few days ago.

Russia

Even though they had around two years to prepare for the World Cup on home soil, Russia looked pretty disappointing in warm-up games, heading into the tournament finals on the back of a seven-match winless run. The poor run of result seem to have decreased the pressure of expectation and that had a positive effect on Stanislav Cherchesov’s squad, as they enjoyed an impressive start to the tournament.

Russia hammered Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening fixture, and even though two of those goals were scored in injury time, a comfortable triumph gave the team a much needed confidence boost. Sbornaya komanda then produced another excellent performance to defeat Egypt 3-1 and thus secured their place in the knockout stages. Russia were soundly beaten by Uruguay in the match that decided the Group A winner as full-back Igor Smolnikov was sent off early on, and they now need to recover quickly and give their best when facing star-studded Spain.

Team News

The good news is that key midfielder Alan Dzagoev has recovered from injury, but Igor Smolnikov misses out through suspension.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Spain unbeaten in last 23 fixtures (W15 D8)
  • Both teams scored in six of their eight matches
  • Russia and Spain played out a 3-3 draw in November 2017
  • Spain won three of their last five meetings with Russia (D2)
  • Russia failed to score in three of those matches

Conclusion

Their recent performances are enough to suggest Russia will be no match for star-studded Spain, who can be trusted to rediscover their form and take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself. With so many quality options at his disposal, Fernando Hierro is in much better position than his counterpart.

Verdict: Home win

Best Odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: William Hill

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