Croatia v Spain
Monday June 28, 17:00
Live on ITV
Croatia impress against Scotland
Croatia secured their place in the Euro 2020 knockout stages with an impressive 3-1 success over Scotland at Hampden Park last Tuesday. Nikola Vlasic arrowed the World Cup finalists into an early lead, but a thundering drive before half-time saw the Scots level. However, Luka Modric's sumptuous first-time shot restored Croatia's advantage on the hour.
The Balkan boys came under pressure as Scotland poured forward in an absorbing contest, before Ivan Perisic ended the encounter as a contest with 13 minutes to play. The Inter Milan ace surged to the front post at a corner and guided the ball in off the back post to rubber-stamp Croatia's first-ever win over the Scots and second place in Group D.
Centre-half Dejan Lovren is suspended for Monday evening's encounter with Duje Caleta-Car likely to be restored to the starting XI alongside Domagoj Vida. Young left-back Josko Gvardiol should shake-off a knock to be involved from the off, whilst head coach Zlatko Dalic is expected to select the same front four that started against Scotland here against Spain.
Spain demolish Slovakia
Spain silenced their critics with an emphatic first victory at Euro 2020 on Wednesday. La Roja recovered from an early Alvaro Morata missed penalty to thrash Slovakia 5-0 in scorching Seville, a result that assured Luis Enrique's side of a place in the last-16. Once again, the Iberians monopolised possession, and managed nine on-target attempts.
A bizarre own goal from Martin Dubravka broke the deadlock and Spain took total control of the contest thereafter. Aymeric Laporte, Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres all scored before Juraj Kucka inadvertently completed the rout for La Roja, bundling the ball over his own line from close range. By the time the fifth goal had arrived, Slovakia had already downed tools.
Luis Enrique made four changes to his XI on matchday three, dropping Pau Torres from central defence and surprisingly leaving Marcos Llorente out of the starting side. Dani Olmo was also left out, although Sergio Busquets returned to skipper the team. The Spain head coach could again shuffle his pack with La Roja facing a different sort of threat from Croatia.
Croatia and Spain have met eight times previously, with the Balkan boys returning W3-D1-L4 in head-to-head battles, including a 3-2 triumph in the duos most recent meeting during Nations League action in 2018. However, just a month earlier, La Roja had run out 6-0 winners in the same competition, Croatia's heaviest ever defeat in international football.
Croatia 7.006/1 generated the lowest Non-Penalty Expected Goals (npxG) output of all qualified last-16 nations during the group-stage, and fired in the fewest shots from inside the penalty area. The Blazers have been in far from imposing form, posting just W3-D3-L6 in their most recent 12 outings, with victories arriving against Scotland, Malta and Cyprus.
Spain 1.664/6 accumulated the competition's second-highest Non-Penalty Expected Goals (npxG) in their three group games, although Gerard Moreno and Alvaro Morata both significantly underperformed according to the same metric. Even so, La Roja have won 15 of their 26 outings since the start of qualification for this tournament at the beginning of 2019.
The Euro 2020 group-stage produced a reasonable 2.62 goals per-game with exactly half of the pool fixtures featuring Over 2.5 Goals 2.1211/10. Nevertheless, European Championship knockout matches tend to be tight affairs with draws seeing a significant increase and goals per-game dropping to just 2.03 when viewing all knockout games since Euro '96.
Naturally, a tight contest is anticipated between two possession-heavy sides with doubts over each team's ruthlessness in the final-third. Under 2.5 Goals is trading at 1.834/5 and has already proven profitable in four of the pairs six group games. However, Croatia's record of three shutouts in 21 (against Cyprus, Hungary and Malta) is a little off-putting.
With Spain a little too short to support in the standard Match Odds market, there's a nice 9/4 alternative on the Sportsbook for La Roja to succeed by exactly one goal via the Winning Margin offering.
Croatia have lost each of their last seven match-ups with current top 12 sides in the FIFA World Rankings, five of which arrived by a single-goal margin. Spain are unbeaten in six against teams inside the top 21 of the same metric and aren't accustomed to blow-out victories.