SPAIN v RUSSIA
Live on BBC 1. Sunday July 1, kick-off 3pm
WILL the Spanish fly or could the Russians kick like a mule in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium? it will be a partisan crowd getting behind the host nation but I'm taking Isco and Co to step up a gear and Putin a world-class performance.
I'm glad to see Russia through to the knockout stages – they are a much-maligned state (often rightly so) but they've shown more established footballing nations how to host and police a World Cup despite the fears surrounding their bid so credit where it's due.
I reckon this may well be the end of the road for them though and despite Spain's suspect defensive frailties in the group stages, instinct and pedigree will kick in here; Ramos, Pique, Busquets and Iniesta have all been here before countless times for club and country and know the script too well – Russia could well feel the full force of La Furia Roja who will be smarting after taking a knock to their collective pride during those opening encounters.
That said, Russia could well exploit some windows of opportunity which, although it may not be enough to see them progress, could just make life awkward for the Spanish tide – it may just pay to factor in the following: there is no David Silva, Busquets is a yellow away from a suspension, rumours over Hierro's faith in Dea Gea who could be dropped in favour of Arrizabalaga are rife and ultimately, the elephant in the room of their defensive cohesion .. 5 goals conceded in the 3 group games can't be brushed under the carpet!
If you consider the last encounter (different circumstances mind) back in 2017 ended with 3 goals apiece and that Spain have never lost to Russia with 4 wins and 2 draws, you could be excused for plotting up along the lines of both to score and a Spanish victory and I have to say, that's exactly my suspicion – Spain to dominate play/possesion with Russia hitting on the counter but ultimately being outgunned.
That bet pays a best price over 2-1 at Coral compared to an average 15-8 elswhere and I'll take that as the SS .. I've had a 75% success rate on the previewed main bets so hope that form continues with this one!
- Btts and over 2.5 goals (21-10, Coral)
- Diego Costa (77-20, Marathonbet)
- Isco to hit the woodwork (7-1, Unibet)