Carabao Cup Semi-Final Preview
One of the highlights of World Cup Group Stages takes place on the second day of the tournament when Spain face Portugal.
It was already a mouth-watering match-up before Cristiano Ronaldo decided to let the world know he wanted to leave Real Madrid (again).
The Portuguese captain will face his club captain, teammate and good friend Sergio Ramos, in what’s sure to be one of the best battles we’ll see in Russia.
Both sides have been in great form, though Spain’s last two games against Switzerland and Tunisia will have given coach, Julen Lopetegui, some food for thought.
Prior to those fixtures, ‘La Roja‘ had enjoyed a 5-0 win over Costa Rica and a 6-1 thrashing of an Argentina side that were without Lionel Messi. By contrast, Portugal drew three, won two and lost won of their last half dozen.
The general consensus for the teams in Group B, which also include Iran and Morocco, is not who will qualify but where Spain and Portugal will finish, as both are expected to easily make the next stage of the tournament.
Spain’s ‘golden generation’ of players have been mainly been replaced, but there are still a few from that glorious era in Lopetegui’s squad, and their experience will prove invaluable.
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) June 7, 2018
For example, Gerard Piqué and Andrés Iniesta, who will both likely bow out of international football once the curtain comes down in Russia.
The coach also has enough youth at his disposal to ensure the right blend in a team that’s never lost under his tutelage (20 matches and counting).
Lopetegui’s opposite number, Fernando Santos, will fancy his team’s chances too. Ronaldo is the obvious star man, even at 33, however, Gonçalo Guedes has had a fabulous season at Valencia and will oil the wheels in midfield when Portugal attempt to break.
Bernardo Silva will be another to watch, whilst William Carvalho will enjoy standing toe-to-toe with the likes of David Silva.
If Portugal do have a weakness, it’s in defence, so it’s imperative that Diego Costa gets at their back line as often as possible. The Atlético Madrid man hasn’t really impressed in the last few games, but all will be forgiven if he leads the line well and helps Spain to emerge victorious from what’s expected to be a difficult encounter.
Should Pepe play, the pair can rekindle their Madrid derby dalliances, and don’t be at all surprised to see one, or both, sent off if things get fiery.
And they will!
You can back both players to be carded, in a #PriceItUp Builder selection, at 11/1 , which is a good price given the previous brawls they’ve had.
Traditionally, both nations have been known, certainly in the recent past, to play 4-3-3 formations, but both coaches have preferred 4-4-2 in the qualifying stages. (Lopetegui even went with a 4-2-3-1 against Tunisia).
Expect the same again and with a similar idea of how to win the game.
Either side can break at pace when required or play in balls to their target man with others coming to support. Central midfield will be congested so there’s a strong likelihood that the wingers and full-backs will be worked hard in this one.
Personally speaking, I think this game has draw written all over it, and that’s priced at 23/10.