Portugal vs Spain: A point a piece expected in tight encounter

Both nations are unlikely to take many risks in Sochi
Portugal's Joao Moutinho vies with Spain's Andres Iniesta at Euro 2012 in Donetsk. (FRANCK FIFE/AFP/GettyImages)

Portugal vs Spain Preview & Betting Tips


Portugal face neighbours Spain at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi in a crucial Group B clash. A cagey affair is predicted with so much as stake.

Portugal


The Seleção couldn’t have asked for a tougher assignment to begin their World Cup campaign. Spain are widely tipped to be contenders for the title but Portugal know their opponents well, especially Cristiano Ronaldo who plays with and against most of them on a weekly basis.

Manager Fernando Santos has some interesting decisions to make before another battle against Spain in Sochi. The form of Gonçalo Guedes and Bruno Fernandes, who both scored in the final friendly win against Algeria, has thrown them into consideration.

Guedes is the most likely to come in for André Silva after a fantastic season at Valencia and two goals against Algeria. His versatility could give him an edge with his ability to play on the left wing or up front a useful weapon.

Portugal had some rough moments in recent friendlies, losing 3-0 against Netherland and throwing away a 2-0 lead against Tunisia, but with Ronaldo back there is optimism that the 2016 European Champions can go toe-to-toe with the very best.

Can Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo make the difference in Sochi? (FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Spain


Julen Lopetegui did no wrong after replacing Vicente Del Bosque after the 2016 European Championships. Undefeated in 20 matches, La Roja were one of the favourites for the World Cup after breezing through qualification in Group G which included Italy.

On the eve of the World Cup the Spanish football federation sensationally sacked Lopetegui after it was announced he was joinging Real Madrid. Fernando Hierro takes over and won'r have much time before their opening game against Portugal. 

Spain looked sharp with a 6-1 demolition of Argentina in March despite Lionel Messi unable to feature.  Many of the current crop were part of the unbeatable team between 2008 and 2012 that won two European Championships and a World Cup. 

There are exciting youngsters coming through including Saúl, Álvaro Odriozola and Marco Asensio but it’s largely a veteran team with Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos and David Silva nearing the end of the international careers.

Diego Costa will be a handful up front with Isco, Iniesta, Thiago and David Silva pulling the strings. Daniel Carvajal is a serious with Álvaro Odriozola expected to start at right-back. The big question now is if Lopetegui's sacking derails their campaign.

Match Up


These Iberian neighbours have met on numerous occasions over the years with Spain holding a significant edge. In recent times it’s very close however. 

La Roja beat Portugal in a penalty shootout in the 2012 European Championship semi-finals with the game finishing 0-0 after extra time. Two years earlier Spain won 1-0 at the 2010 World Cup in the Round of 16. 

Key Statistics


  • Portugal won 9 consecutive matches in World Cup qualification.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 81 goals in 150 appearances for Portugal.
  • Spain are unbeaten in 20 matches under Julen Lopetegui.
  • Spain won 9 and drew 1 match in World Cup qualification.
  • There has been 1 goal scored in the last 2 competitive matches between Portugal and Spain

Verdict


Very little has separated these nations in their two recent competitive fixtures, with just one goal scored in 210 minutes of football. 

Spain are favourites here, but sacking the manager a day before the tournament begins is far from ideal. Portugal are underrated and have Ronaldo, the best player in the match. Points are crucial here and a draw won’t be a bad result for both nations. 

Best Bet: Draw @ 3.50
Matthew Marshall 13 June 2018

2018 FIFA World Cup Previews & Tips