Portugal – Spain

The current European Champions Portugal square off against their Iberian neighbours Spain on Friday night to kick off their World Cup campaign. Both sides will expect to see off Morocco and Iran in their next 2 games but with either side potentially on 3 points before this clash there is even more pressure not to lose.

Fernando Santos’s side were able to lift the European title 2 years ago despite failing to win a group game. If they repeat that in this group it’s highly likely that they will see elimination.

This team is built around a strong defence and work ethic. However, the back line is ageing with Pepe and Alves both into their mid 30’s. Facing a team like Spain and their pace will be a problem and it’s likely that they will need their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to make things happen at the other end.

However, Ronaldo has a poor World Cup record netting 3 in 13 appearances at the finals. Against Iran and Morocco I don’t think that matters but against Spain they need him to replicate his Real Madrid form which saw him score over 40 times this season.

Spain will look to make up for a poor World Cup last time out where they were eliminated at the Group Stages. Like Portugal, with easier tests to come anything but a defeat is reasonable but a win would be huge in terms of winning the group.

Julen Lopetegui’s side breezed through qualification despite having Italy in their group. In 19 games he remains unbeaten as Spanish manager, with a move to Real Madrid already agreed following the tournament he would love to exit with a World Cup Winners medal.

The core of this side is Real Madrid and Barcelona players with the excellent De Gea between the posts. They will know Ronaldo better than most and I’m sure the likes of Sergio Ramos will have a plan for him.

At the other end Isco, David Silva, Iniesta and Thiago will be looking to assist Diego Costa who will relish the prospect of facing the ageing centre backs of Portugal.

Portugal will look to play deep and counter on Spain with the likes of Ronaldo and Bernando Silva. However, it’s going to need Moutinho and Carvalho to play exceptionally well in the middle of the park. It will also mean Pepe must be at his best against Diego Costa.

All the key battles looks to be won by Spain. Even at the other end, Ronaldo will be up against Pique and Ramos, two exceptional defenders and then he still needs to beat De Gea.

Prediction: Spain to Win @2.05 in Bwin.com

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