The second day of the Round of 16 is upon us and Spain will try to win against the hosts Russia in the path to their second World Cup trophy.
Spain had turbulent days before the start of the World Cup and that had an impact to their performances in the group stage. Even though they finished first in their group, their performances were not dominant at all. They only managed to get one win against Iran (1-0) and drew twice (3-3 vs Portugal, 2-2 vs Morocco).
Fernando Hierro tried to replace Lopetegui the best way he could but there were a lot of weakness in this Spanish side. Hierro tried different players in the midfield but he didn’t manage to replicate Spain’s midfield dominance in the qualifications.
David De Gea waited 3 games to make a single save and is one of the biggest disappointments of the tournament. He seems so insecure at the goal and the Spanish media are asking for Kepa to replace the Manchester United goalkeeper.
Ramos and Pique are also not having a great tournament. Busquets, Diego Costa and Isco are maybe the only ones that are playing at their best. Iago Aspas also used his minutes well but will still probably start from the bench.
Russia, on the other side, is one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. They won 5-0 against Saudi Arabia and 3-1 against Egypt. They lost 3-0 to Uruguay, but they were playing with one man down for around 60 minutes and made too many changes in the first 11.
Golovin, Zhirkov and Mario Fernandes were all rested in the game against Uruguay and will be fresh today. All of these players especially needed rest as they are the ones with most kilometers run in each game. Zhirkov and Manuel Fernandes are roaming on the field from the defense to the attack and Golovin pulls all the strings.
Dzyuba will surely start in the central forward position and try to score against the insecure De Gea. Cheryshev will also most probably start.
Expected Spain’s 11:
De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Koke, Iniesta, Silva, Isco, Diego Costa.
Expected Russia’s 11:
Akinfeev, Fernandes, Ignashevich, Kutepov, Zhirkov; Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev; Dzyuba.
Russia’s best players were rested a few days ago and it wouldn’t be weird if we watch a close game today. The hosts will be supported by their fans and will try to surprise one of the contenders for the title. Aleksandr Golovin is one of the best players of the tournament and big clubs from around Europe will try to sign him. If Lopetegui was still Spain’s coach probably there would have been no doubts about the winner. But after 3 bad games from Spain, everything can happen here. Russia could go through if Spain are not at their absolute best.