UEFA Nations League: Croatia vs Spain preview


Spain can secure their place at the top of Group 4 on Thursday, all they need is a win against Croatia at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. The reverse fixture, played in September, was a nightmare for the Croatians, Spain won it 6-0 in Elche with goals from Saul, Asensio, Rodrigo, Sergio Ramos, Isco and an own-goal from Lovre Kalinic. That was some sort of revenge for Spain as Croatia defeated them 2-1 in the group stage of the 2016 European Championship. That was the only victory for Croatia against Spain, the two teams have met six times since 1999 and Spain have prevailed on four occasions.

Croatia still have a chance to win Group 4, but they would need to win their last two group matches: against Spain at home and on Sunday against England. That seems like a very tall order for them, especially since they were not able to win any of their first two group matches. However, they did well to recover from the 6-0 hammering in Spain with a goalless draw against England last time out. After that match the Croatians played a friendly match against Jordan, which they won 2-1. Sime Vrsaljko, Lovre Kalinic and Marcelo Brozovic were not available for the match against England in October, but now they are all fit and have been included in the squad.

Spain have a solid chance of winning Group 4, despite their surprising 3-2 home defeat against England last time out. Spain are leading the group table on 6 points, while second-placed England are two points behind. If Spain secure all three points in Croatia, then England can't bother them anymore, regardless of the result of Sunday's match at Wembley. Spain had a great start to their UEFA Nations League campaign, winning 2-1 against England at Wembley and then 6-0 against Croatia on Spanish soil, but the defeat against England in October could put their qualification at risk.

Probable line-ups:

Croatia: Kalinic - Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Pivaric - Rakitic, Brozovic - Kramaric, Modric, Perisic - Rebic

Spain: De Gea - Azpilicueta, Hermoso, Ramos, Alba - Niguez, Busquets, Ceballos - Asensio, Morata, Isco

My prediction: Spain to win 3-1, Croatia are still unrecognizable after the World Cup.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Croatia win - 3.60
Draw - 3.40
Spain win - 2.20

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