In one of the most awaited games in the FIFA World Cup group stages, European Champions Portugal on Friday take on Spain, who will look forward to shake off the shock sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui.
Both the teams have strong squads and a highly tactical, technical and an attacking game is expected from both the sides.
Spain will probably boss the possession with their world class midfielders in Iniesta, David Silva and Sergio Busquets, with the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Saul and Koke ready to step up whenever needed. While Portugal is expected to defend deep and launch counter attacks to utilise the pace of Gelson Martins, Bernardo Silva, Gonçalo Guedes and the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo.
The defenders that faced France in the final and the back four that was incredibly solid for the knockout rounds in which they conceded only one goal in four games. Cedric, whilst having a shockingly poor season for Southampton has been consistent for Portugal for the last couple of years and should be courted by some bigger teams in the summer.
Portugal’s defense is highly under-rated with the likes of Cedric, Pepe and Jose Fonte. They were superb for the Seleção das Quinas in their EuropeanChampionship-winning campaign and have been consistent for a good couple of years now. Whilst their age might be an issue but still, their ability to defend solid and keep out the best of attacking players quiet is amazing.
Spain will bank on the quality and experience of their back line with Sergio Ramos, Pique, Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba expected to start the majority at the back. The technical ability of the back-line is impeccable and they have a bit of attacking flair within them too. The full backs Carvajal and Alba like to bomb forward whenever they can to provide an extra man while attacking and both the centre-back Pique and Ramos have proven their skill of scoring goals with their respective clubs.
The midfield battle is expected to be won by Spain as all of the players in their squad are passing maestros in their own way. Iniestas and Thiagos are known for their ability to find ‘the’ pass in tightest of positions, while Busquets will guard their back line and make the midfield tick from his No.6 position. David Silva is another magician that Spain have in their line-up and he has proven his worth as a goal-scorer too apart from his well-known passing ability, but Silva is expected to play as an inside-forward and cut in from the right to free up Dani Carvajal’s attacking runs.
In the attacking department, Portugal has Premier League winner Bernardo Silva, a God-gifted talent who has all the ability in the world to score and create goals for his teams. Gelson Martins is a pace machine and is high on confidence after his prolific season for Sporting Lisbon, and then there is Cristiano Ronaldo who can single-handedly take Portugal to the later stages of the tournament, if on song. There is hardly a better goal machine than the Real Madrid megastar in the whole world.
Spain is likely to play two No.10s in Isco and David Silva as wingers, and they are expected to drift in and create chances with their skill and lethal off the ball movement. While Costa is expected to bully off the defenders by using his brute strength and cheeky nature of pushing past weak defenders to create chances for his team. When in form, Costa is one of the strikers in the world whom defenders hate to face.
Predicted Score: This game will be interesting as both the sides are full of chances and goals. Early impact by any player could be a deciding factor, and there is no scope of any complacency and tactical howler. Spain are with Fernando Hierro now, who hardly had the time to get used to the squad and that could be a big factor in this match. Our prediction is a 1-1 draw.