Spain v Russia: 2010 champions must overcome the host nation in the heart of Moscowby Colin Millar / 30 June 2018, 12:49Tweet
A dramatic final minute of VAR-influenced action saw Spain edge through to the last 16 and top their group in the process.
A last-gasp draw with Morocco followed a victory over Iran and draw with Portugal as Fernando Hierro’s side unconvincingly topped the group.
Russia made a storming start, defeating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and Egypt 3-1 before succumbing to a final day 3-0 defeat to Uruguay. However, despite Spain possessing a far superior side individually, Stanislav Cherchesov’s Russia possess home advantage and will have a passionate home crowd behind them in the capital.
The two have also played each other relatively recently – an enthralling 3-3 friendly draw last November. Whilst competitive knockout football will be significantly different, the end result looks set to be much closer than what the market is suggesting – a comfortable victory for La Roja.
There are doubts over Spain’s performance and suggestions indicate Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea could be dropped, with Kepa Arrizabalaga of Athletic Club Bilbao taking his place. It has also been indicated that, in a bid to add defensive solidity to the midfield, Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez or Real Madrid’s Nacho Fernandez could come in, with one of the more forward-minded players making way.
The Spanish are strong favourites to win this game at odds of 11/18, with a surprise Russia victory available at 5/1 and the draw priced at 13/5.
Russia’s defeat to Uruguay was skewed by the lack of intensity in the hosts game and a first half red card. Spain have struggled to assert their possession and territorial dominance into results with just one group victory in three. A 1-1 scoreline is a likely outcome and is priced at 7/1.
Knockout matches tend to be cagier affairs than group games as there is more significance upon the result with sides swaying more towards caution. Russia are likely to adapt a conservative, safe approach to this game and try to nullify Spain’s passing threat. This clash could follow a similar pattern to Spain’s 1-0 group victory over Iran. Fewer than 2.5 goals is available at a tempting 4/6.
Spain are currently enjoying a 23-game unbeaten run – stretching back to the 2016 European Championships – and are currently priced at 4/1 to win the tournament. Russia have not won any of their last four matches against other European nations, with their last victory coming against Hungary in June 2017, and odds of them ending that run and qualifying for the last eight are available at 31/10.
Prediction: Spain 2-1 Russia