Spain open up their World Cup campaign with a clash against Iberian rivals and European champions Portugal today.
And preparations for the opening fixture couldn’t be worse, frankly. The camp has been thrown into complete disarray with the untimely sacking of head coach, Julen Lopetegui.
Despite the upheaval, Spain are still favourites to win at 21/20. Portugal are underdogs at 3/1, with the Draw available at 21/10.
Fernando Hierro takes charge of La Roja after Lopetegui’s exit. And the Real Madrid legend won’t want to tinker too much with what’s been a successful side.
Hierro will be able to count on a number of senior stars including Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and Andres Iniesta. The formation and tactics are unlikely to change.
But the major question will be how the team copes with the dramatic events of the last few days? The experience of those stars will stand them in good stead. But it’s the intangible effect of the coach’s exit that will cause most concern.
For Portugal, it’ll be business as usual – 4-4-2, with a reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo. Selecao das Quinas may depend heavily on the World Player of the Year, but they’ve still got plenty of talent elsewhere.
Fernando Santos’ side will employ counter-attacking tactics and try and utilise the skill and guile of Bernardo Silva and Joao Mario to open up the Spanish.
Portugal v Spain has a history of being a bit of a thriller. But as this is a derby of sorts, and it’s the opening game of the group, we could be on for a bit of a tight, tense match.
The Spanish have only lost one of eight World Cup or European Championship clashes against the Portuguese.
Six of Portugal’s last 10 meetings with Spain have ended level after 90 minutes. And Ronaldo and co. have only lost inside 90 minutes just three times in the 25 matches since they won Euro 2016.
Under 2.5 Goals is 8/15. Portugal are 3/4 in the Double Chance market. In terms of goalscorers, it would be remiss of us not to mention Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar has had another stellar season.
For La Roja, you can take your pick from any number of stars with a likely front trio of Diego Costa, David Silva, and Isco looking to cause carnage.
Manchester City’s Silva has had a tremendous season at the Etihad. And it would surprise no one if the little genius popped up with a goal. The 32-year-old is 23/10 to score Anytime.
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All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication