By 90Min
June 30, 2018

2010 World Cup champions Spain are set to face off against host nation Russia in the third round of sixteen match up on Sunday afternoon.

This one promises to be an intriguing clash and will be serious test for Russia, who will be looking to rise on the wave of optimism which is currently spreading across the country. They will be coming up against a side which is packed full of talent in Spain, but the fact that both sides are on the 'easier' side of the knockout bracket will come as further motivation to win.

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Russia will have to be at their best if they are to cause a serious upset, but given the upsets that have already taken place at this year's tournament, just about anything is possible.

Here's everything you need to know.


Group Stage Performance


Spain will be the first to admit that their performances so far have been well below what was expected of them prior to the tournament. La Rojas were held to an enthralling 3-3 draw in their opening match. They played reasonably well, particularly in midfield, but were undone by a spectacular Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.

They seemed to be reeling from that draw and in their second match against Iran, they looked as though they were going to be left frustrated once again until Diego Costa managed to bundle home a fortunate goal.

In their final match against Morocco, they were disappointing again. Isco and Iago Aspas bailed them out of an embarrassing defeat, with the game finishing 2-2.

Russia on the other hand began their World Cup campaign with a bang. An emphatic 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia kicked off proceedings, before they dispatched what looked to be their biggest group rivals, Egypt, 3-1.

They were brought back down to earth in their final group match against Uruguay however, as Luis Suarez and co tore the Russian defence apart.


Classic Encounter


The two sides faced each other twice during Euro 2008, once in the group stages and then in the semi-final. The second encounter saw Spain reach their first European championship final since 1984, courtesy of a comfortable 3-0 win.

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Russia were coming off of the back of a superb display against the heavily favoured Netherlands, but they were left powerless against Spain. 

Las Rojas put in a performance that epitomised their dominance of world football in the late 2000's, and left Russia with no opportunity to get any sort of foothold in the match.

Goals from Xavi, Daniel Guiza and David Silva proved to be the difference and sent Russia packing. Since then, Russia have failed to reach a knockout round at any major tournament until now.


Team News


Spain haven't got going yet, but it is unlikely that they will make any changes ahead of their match against Russia. They have no reported injuries or suspensions so they will have a full contingent to choose from.

They very rarely waver from their preferred 4-3-3 system, with Sergio Busquets dropping deep to provide a screen for his defence. He is currently on a yellow card, but his importance to the Spain side is well documented, so it is unlikely that he will sit out.

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Russia rested a few of their key players such as Aleksandar Golovin and Mario Fernandes against Uruguay, but they will be expected to come back into the side.

It was unlikely that he would have started anyway, but Igor Smolnikov is suspended after being sent off in their last match. However, Russia will be boyued by the fact that one of their key midfielders, Alan Dzagoev, may be back after picking up an injury in their first match against Saudi Arabia.


Predicted Lineups


Spain (4-3-3): De Gea, Carvajal, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Thiago, Iniesta, Isco, Silva, Costa


Russia (4-2-3-1): Akinfeev, Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Gazinksky, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev, Dzyuba


Predictions 


If we were going off of form alone, then this one would be difficult to call. Russia cruised their first two matches against inferior opposition before being soundly beaten in their third, whilst Spain showed flashes of brilliance in amongst three average performances.

Soccrates Images/GettyImages

But we have the knowledge of knowing what Spain are capable of achieving, if they put their mind to it. Isco and David Silva should have no problems in breaking down the Russian defence whilst Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta are likely to boss possession the centre of the park.

Home support will be a factor of course and expect Russia to put their heart and souls in to this one to try and pull off a shock. Ultimately though, this is where their tournament will come to an end.

Prediction: Spain 3-0 Russia

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