July begins with another double header of knockout action from the World Cup and the afternoon offering on Sunday sees the 2010 champions Spain looking to make it into the quarter finals once again when they take on tournament hosts Russia in Moscow.
Spain made it through to this match by winning their group, which was done in crazy fashion on the final night of it, while Russia had no answer to Uruguay last time out which means that they were runners up in Group A.
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It looked as though Spain had hurt their own chances of progressing in this tournament when they fired their coach on the eve of the World Cup beginning but a couple of draws against Portugal and Morocco with a narrow victory against Iran in between has seen them safely negotiate the group stage and now the fun begins.
Spain have already done better than four years ago when they went out in the group stage but I would imagine it would still be a disappointment if they go out at this stage and to this opposition. If they are to avoid departing they need to tighten up defensively having conceded five goals in the group and a barrel load more chances beyond that.
All the talk heading into the tournament were that Russia could be the worst host nation of all time but two emphatic wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt soon put that talk to bed and all of a sudden the home fans were dreaming about what might be. They were brought down to earth with a bang in the final group match against Uruguay but already you sense expectations have been exceeded.
I guess with that in mind they can have a real go here. Heading into the tournament that might not have been seen as the wisest philosophy perhaps but having seen how open Spain look at the back and with Russia’s weakest in their own defence just trying to absorb pressure is probably not an option for them in this one.
Spain will keep faith with David de Gea despite him not performing to standards expected of him in the group stage. Marco Acensio could come into the side for the Spanish with David Silva potentially making way.
Russia will be without the suspended Igor Smolnikov. Aleksandr Golovin was rested for the defeat to Uruguay but he is expected to return here. Mario Fernandez will come into the side at right-back.
Fair play to Russia for making it this far but we saw them out of their depth against Uruguay last time out and I’m expecting them to be exposed by Spain again here. Spain have only really been in second gear in this tournament thus far but they will know they need to go through the gearbox if they are going to be in the final in two weeks. I think we’ll see their best performance here which can be enough for them to come through here with more than a little in hand.
I also think the even money on over 2.5 goals is worth taking. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spain cover this total themselves but Russia might be good for a goal given how open the Spanish defence has looked so far. I don’t expect Russia to venture forward too often but the likes of Golovin and Cheryshev have quality in them in the right areas. That said three Spain goals are perfectly possible so I like the overs here too.
Back Spain (-1) to beat Russia for a 4/10 stake at 2.75 with Betfair
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Back Over 2.5 goals for a 4/10 stake at 2.05 with BetVictor