There shouldn’t be a contest here. But this is football and there is always a window of 90 [minutes] opportunities to rewrite history. Also, the hosts can hold on to the fact that Spain has never beaten a World Cup host before.
The 2010 champions were rocked just before the tournament kicked off but they have navigated their way to this point under the new manager, Fernando Hierro, who is expected to stick with David De Gea, even though the Manchester United goalkeeper has been shaky and has already conceded five goals.
For Russia, the roar of their fans in the stadium can propel them to great heights. They already surprised themselves and their fans with great results in their first two matches. They can exceed that on Sunday.
Head to head
Tue 14/11/17 FRI Russia 3 – 3 Spain
Thu 26/06/08 EUC Russia 0 – 3 Spain
Tue 10/06/08 EUC Spain 4 – 1 Russia
Fri 26/05/06 FRI Spain 0 – 0 Russia
Sat 12/06/04 EUC Spain 1 – 0 Russia
Current Form [Last 5 matches]
|Austria 1 - 0 Russia||Spain 1 - 1 Switzerland|
|Russia 1 - 1 Turkey||Tunisia 0 - 1 Spain|
|Russia 5 - 0 S/Arabia||Portugal 3 - 3 Spain|
|Russia 3 - 1 Egypt||Iran 0 - 1 Spain|
|Uruguay 3 - 0 Russia||Spain 2 - 2 Morocco|
Three duels to watch
Roman Zobnin v Isco
The unsung hero in the Russian side is the defensive midfielder, Zobnin, and he will be on Isco’s case on Sunday. Zobnin made an average of five tackles in the first two group games and just one against Uruguay, which Russia lost 3-0. If he ups his tackles in the centre of the pitch, Russia will have a chance to hurt Spain.
Denis Cheryshev v Daniel Carvajal
With three goals already and knowledge of Real Madrid defender, Carvajal, Cheryshev will seek to exploit gaps in the Spanish defence when they are on the offensive.
Sergei Ignashevich v Diego Costa
This will be a heavyweight battle. Costa already has three goals and has shown he can be the focal point for la Roja. But in Ignashevich, he will find a defender not cowed by his physical approach.
Referee in charge: It is the experienced 45-year-old Bjorn Kuipers and he has been a FIFA-graded referee since 2006. He has been in charge of two matches in Russia and is remembered for overturning a penalty he awarded Brazil against Costa Rica.
WORLD CUP FACT: Spain has yet to win a single game against the hosts at a major tournament.
Prediction: Spain 3-1 Russia