Spain v Russia Predictions, Betting Tips and Previews
June 26, 2018
Luzhniki Stadium - World Cup Round of 16
Spain face Russia as the knockout stages get underway, after a dramatic turn of events in matchday three saw them snatch first place in Group B. The hosts looked highly impressive in their first two games, however were torn apart by a rampant Uruguay side in their last match.
The two sides met just a year ago in an international friendly which ended three goals apiece. Spain were always in ascendancy, with Jordi Alba scoring after just nine minutes and Sergio Ramos taking two penalties, however, Russia ensured the match was never too far out of hand as Fedor Smolov scored a brace around a goal from Aleksei Miranchuk.
Fernando Hierro has made changes in each of Spain's three games, and seems unclear as to his chosen formation and starting XI. Diego Costa looks to have the coach's favour, although Iago Aspas will have made his case with the vital goal on Monday, whilst Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco are all favourites. However, following a disappointing performance the interim manager may wish to tweak his side yet again, with the likes of Saul able to provide a more physical midfield.
Stanislav Cherchesov likewise rotated heavily for his side's loss to Uruguay. Playmaker Aleksandr Golovin was rested completely, whilst there were changes at both full-back positions and in attacking midfield. This clearly didn't pay off as Igor Smolnikov, in his first appearance of the tournament, received an early red card meaning that Mario Fernandes will return to the side.
Spain v Russia Preview and Predictions
The final match of Group B produced surely one of the most dramatic moments of the competition so far, with Portugal conceding a 93rd minute penalty only moments after Spain scored an injury time winner. The events, facilitated by retrospective VAR action saw La Roja overtake their rivals for the top-spot, thereby avoiding the perilous Uruguay in the next round.
Russia had a less enjoyable experience of matchday three, as their early tournament momentum was stopped by Portugal's upcoming opponents. With qualification for the knock-outs already guaranteed Cherchesov took the risk of dropping a number of his key players in order to keep them fit for the next game.
This was always a risk against a well drilled Uruguay side, although the manager surely should have predicted that a weakened side would be taken apart by the Luis Suarez-Edinson Cavani strike duo. Whether or not this risk was worth taking will become clear following the hosts clash with Spain, although they may well be glad to have the current European Champions instead.
Spain have looked far from their former selves this summer, and are clearly suffering from their manager getting sacked three days before it started. The side looks short of ideas, and is clearly relying on the personality of their veterans to drag them through games. Of course, having players such as Iniesta, Silva and Sergio Ramos is a major boost to Hierro, but he appears to be over-relient on their influence.
Against Russia, Spain's passing style should be advantageous. Their opponents have been typically physical, fit and hard in the tackle this tournament, an approach that can be exploited by tiki-taka, if executed correctly. However, with Sergio Busquets the only defensive midfielder to have started for the former World Champions, Cherchesov's side will be looking to out-power Spain in the middle of the pitch.
Sunday's game should be an interesting match-up, and with Spain yet to click, Russia will go into the game ready to cause an upset.
Diego Costa to score first at 3/1
Despite not fitting with their build up play, Costa has been the most effective player for Spain with three goals already.
Over 2.5 goals scored at 5/4
Russia's defence have looked suspect but they will go all out to get a goal against Spain.