Croatia take on Spain in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Monday in a 5pm kick-off as the last-16 of Euro 2020 continues.
Croatia booked their place in the knockout stages with a 3-1 win against Scotland last week, while Spain finally came alive at this tournament by thumping Slovakia 5-0.
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While they’ll find things much tougher against this canny Croatian side, I do think they will take huge confidence from that victory, with the return of Sergio Busquets in midfield massive for them.
Since international football resumed in September last year, Croatia have kept just two clean sheets – against Cyprus and Malta – in 16 matches.
Spain are from the most clinical side, but with only Netherlands creating more non-penalty xG than them in the group stage, I can’t see Croatia shutting them out.
On the flipside, though, Croatia have only conceded six goals in their last eight matches, with those two clean sheets in March’s World Cup qualifiers sandwiching a run of conceding exactly one goal to Slovenia, Armenia and Belgium, plus England, Czech Republic and Scotland at Euro 2020.
As such, I’ll also back Under 4 Goals for Spain as I can’t see them running riot in the same way they did against the hapless Slovaks.
Spain, meanwhile, have not conceded more than once since a 3-2 defeat to Croatia in November 2018, which makes up a run of 27 matches.
This is a different Croatia side to that one, though. Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic started for them that day but all will be absent here due to suspension, international retirement and COVID-19 respectively.
The latter is a serious blow: Perisic’s two goals at Euro 2020 have extended his major tournament tally to nine, which is a simply phenomenal record.
Mario Mandzukic has also retired from international duty since the 2018 World Cup, of course, so it’s tough to see where the goals are coming from to be honest.
Them scoring once may not exactly be a shock, but two or more would be, especially with Spain conceding fewer shots (6) inside the penalty area than any other nation in the group stage, so I’ll back Under 2 Goals for Croatia. Essentially we are predicting a 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1 or 3-1 Spain win here, while leaving the 1-1 draw open.
In order to give us a double your money Bet Builder, I’ll back Croatia to pick up a card. They have received at least one in each of their three matches so far for a total of five, with Spain’s opponents also picking up one in each of their games for a total of seven. Indeed, no side was fouled more times (43) than Spain in the group stage.
Lastly, Over 3 Corners for Spain should be comfortable given that they have had 20 in their three games so far, having six or more in all three of them. Croatia conceded 4+ to Czech Rep and Scotland.
I can’t say there’s too many player bets which are taking my fancy to be honest. Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno have been getting plenty of shots away but I don’t expect this to be a shot-heavy game with both sides preferring patient possession styles.
I’ll opt for a player card double for a longshot instead, then, with Duje Caleta-Car (4/1) and Koke (5/1) both looking overpriced to me on bet365.
Caleta-Car will come in for the banned Lovren at centre-back. The 24-year-old has been carded five times in his last eight competitive appearances for his country, including against England at Wembley two weeks ago, making him great value at 4/1 considering he received 10 for Lyon last season, too.
Koke, meanwhile, was carded 11 times for Atletico Madrid last season but is yet to be booked at Euro 2020 despite making two fouls in each of Spain’s last two matches. He was fortunate not to receive one against Slovakia.
The double pays 33/1.
Over 0 Goals for Spain, Under 4 Goals for Spain, Under 2 Goals for Croatia, Over 0 Cards for Croatia & Over 3 Corners for Spain @ EVS (bet365)
Duje Caleta-Car to be carded @ 4/1 (bet365)
Duje Caleta-Car & Koke to be carded @ 33/1 (bet365)