Portugal v Spain Friday March 15 19:00 Live on BBC1
All quiet on the Portuguese front
Things are looking good in the Portugal camp. No injuries to speak of and a good spirit from what we can see in reports.
Where there is some uncertainty is in the make-up of the team and the actual system. It will be a flat back four for sure but Fernando Santos may use a diamond midfield formation in a 4-4-2, a more traditional 4-4-2 or a more modern-day 4-3-3. If it were the latter, Cristiano Ronaldo may yet play as the main striker or starting out left like he does for Real Madrid.
If he doesn't start in a central position, that role could either be occupied by Goncalo Guedes who had a fine season, or AC Milan's Andre Silva. It's good news for Portugal fans that Santos has far more viable options this time round than he did two years ago. And they won that one.
And of course whatever short-term problems they may have, are nothing compared to Spain's...
Disaster strikes on the eve of the tournament
There will be a fair few people out there feeling pretty sick about Wednesday morning's news. Especially those who backed Spain to actually win the World Cup.
In an extraordinary sequence of events, Julen Lopetegui was announced as the new Real Madrid manager on Tuesday afternoon despite being a rank outsider for the role. Apparently he had failed to communicate his next move to the Spanish FA and was duly sacked by them for not having told them.
They will now go into the tournament with the Assistants in charge headed by Fernando Hierro. Some will argue that the team is so well-drilled that it may not make that much of a difference. But I'm not so sure. There will be extra Media attention when all they should be focusing on is the football and when the going gets tough, there won't be an experienced hand in charge to make the tough calls.
It's all a huge shame for the fans. They had every chance to go really deep and I'm not the only one who thought that. Back in 2006 Italy won the World Cup with a match-fixing scandal hanging over the heads of many of the players but in a sense this is even worse; at least back then the Italy camp was a united one irrespective of what was going on in the outside.
Here's some interesting insight from Alex Keble into how these events could affect Spain's overall chances.
Plenty to ponder on the match winner market
A market to sidestep. If you can make a case for any of the three outcomes at the prices then you know it's not one to get involved in.
You could say Spain are a bet at 11/10 given their starting XI and bench is stronger than Portugal's in plenty of departments and that they were near flawless in qualifying. You could say that both teams would settle for a draw and that the recent events may just have evened things up so that 9/4 is appealing. Or you could make a case for Portugal being the actual value at 16/5 to win. Spain have a poor record at winning their first group game (just two from 12 as Opta tell us) at World Cups so may be vulnerable early on.
Either way, let's move on.
Goals hard to come by
If you want a winning bet and aren't too fussed about price then go with under 2.5 goals. Spain had the joint-best defensive record in qualifying (as Opta tell us) with just three conceded in 10 games. Portugal's was pretty good a well. They conceded just four.
There may be a lot of attacking talent on display here but both sides worry about defendingbefore anything else. But then again, 4/7 isn't a price to really get excited about.
Don't forget about David Silva
Ronaldo is an obvious place to start on the anytime goalscorer market. It's not often you get a quote of 13/8 about a player like him. He scored 15 goals in qualifying so has had his shooting boots on when it comes to international duty. But Opta tell us he's never scored against Spain.
But the man for me is David Silva. For Spain he plays pretty much as a wide forward on the right much like Mo Salah does for Liverpool. He had a decent season with 15 goals from 55 appearances in all competitions and should be on penalty duty. 13/5 is pretty good when you consider that rightly or wrongly, Spain are strong favourites to win the game.
Why not create your own Same Game Multi? It's Betfair's new feature that allows you to choose different events in the game and bet on them to all come good. Just click on the tab at the top and put two or more selections together. For example, if you fancy Diego Costa to be first goalscorer and the match to end a draw you'd get odds of 26.92. Play around until you find one you like.
Key Opta Stats for Portugal v Spain
Portugal and Spain’s only previous World Cup encounter was in 2010. Spain won 1-0 in the round of 16 thanks to a David Villa goal. The Spanish are2.14 to win again.
Portugal and Spain’s four encounters at major tournaments (World Cup + Euro) have produced only four goals. Under 2.5 goals is1.61.
Portugal will attempt to become the fourth nation to win back-to-back European Championship and World Cup tournaments after West Germany (Euro 1972, World Cup 1974), France (World Cup 1998, Euro 2000) and Spain (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012). They are25.00 to win the World Cup.
Portugal have lost only one of their last nine World Cup group games (0-4 v Germany in 2014), winning five and drawing the other three. They are1.84 in the Double Chance market.
Only England and Spain (3) conceded fewer goals than Portugal (4) in the UEFA qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. Portugal are3.50 to keep a clean sheet.
Spain have qualified for their 15th World Cup and their 11th in a row. It is their longest ever streak of participations. They are third favourites to win the World Cup at7.80.
Spain have finished top of their group in three of their last four World Cups. They are1.69to win Group B.
None of Spain’s last 14 games at the World Cup have ended in a draw (W10 L4). They’ve lost three of their last six group games (W3), after winning each of their previous seven. Portugal are4.20 to win.
Spain had the joint-best defensive record in the 2018 European World Cup qualifiers alongside England, conceding only three goals in 10 games. They were also one of four teams to remain unbeaten – along with Belgium, England and Germany – winning nine of their 10 games. Spain are3.20 to win to nil.
Cristiano Ronaldo was directly involved in more goals than any other player in the 2018 European World Cup qualifiers (18), scoring 15 goals and assisting a further three. Ronaldo is 2.70to score.