The World Cup will have barely been open for business for 24 hours when we get our first heavyweight clash of the tournament, with Euro 2016 winners Portugal facing off against their old Iberian rivals Spain as the fight for the top spot in Group B kicks off.
These two sides are huge favourites to progress from Group B, and with matches against Morocco and Iran seen as comfortable wins for both sides this could actually be the most important game in the group. Whichever team wins this is likely to be at the summit of the group after three matches, so this could be an intense battle.
Portugal defended their way to their Euro 2016 crown, but two years on and they’re yet to bring any particularly promising defenders through the ranks. Their centre back partnership remains reliant on the 35 year old Pepe, and he will be partnered by either 36 year old Bruno Alves or 34 year old Jose Fonte. This could prove an issue when faced with any notion of pace.
Last time out Portugal comfortably beat Algeria 3-0, following on from a goalless draw against Belgium at the start of June. They dominated World Cup qualifying, but they have only won three of their seven friendlies since, failing to beat United States, Netherlands, Tunisia, and Belgium.
Spain also dominated qualifying, dropping just two points in ten games and ending up five points ahead of fellow heavyweights Italy. They scored 36 goals in these ten games, and conceded just three goals at the other end. Since then they have won three and drawn three, leaving them unbeaten since their Euro 2016 exit almost two years ago.
However, turmoil has embroiled the team in the last few days. Julen Lopetegui has been sacked, with the Spanish FA taking the unexpected news badly that he would be the new Real Madrid manager and instantly ended his tenure at the helm of Spain. Spain’s Sporting Director Fernando Hierro will take the helm for the tournament, so at least the players should have some former experience of the man in charge.
Spain were impressive at the back during qualifying, but they have only kept one clean sheet in their last five matches and shipped three against Russia back in November. However, they have scored at least two goals in 15 of their 20 games since Euro 2016 ended, so we can expect to see them pushing the Portugal defence hard on Friday.
To make matters worse, Portugal conceded three against Netherlands and two against Tunisia in their recent games. For this reason we like the look of Spain Over 1.5 Team Goals, and considering they have also slipped at the back recently, we’re also going for a Spain Win and Over 2.5 Goals along with a 2-1 correct score predictions.
Isco is our favoured man to find the net here. The Real Madrid midfielder has become an integral part of the Spain squad in the last couple of years, and operating in a roaming number ten role he has scored ten goals in his 28 international caps. He scored a hat-trick against Argentina back in March, so we like the look of him to score here.
Portugal Predicted Lineup: Patricio, Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Moutinho, Carvalho, B Silva, Mario, Ronaldo, A Silva
Spain Predicted Lineup: De Gea, Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba, Busquets, Alcantara, D Silva, Isco, Iniesta, Costa
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