ARGUABLY the tie of the group-stage takes place on Friday night as Group B giants and near neighbours Portugal take on Spain in Sochi. Dan McCulloch (@danmcc84) analyses the action and pinpoints his favourite fancies.
Portugal v Spain | Friday 15th June 2018, 19:00 | BBC
Julen Lopetegui’s sudden sacking by the Spanish Football Federation has led to a drift in La Roja’s price to win the competition outright and also this game.
I was happy to back the Spaniards at a shade of odds-against 24 hours ago so, while I am obviously slightly concerned to hear of the unrest this decision may cause, I see no reason not to back them to win this game at a best price of 15/13 with Unibet.
I do feel that too much was made of Portugal winning just one of their seven matches en-route to Euro 2016 glory (in their three drawn group matches, they had 70 shots to their opponents 17 after all) but against the better sides, manager Fernando Santos certainly adopted a safety-first approach.
Stick with Spain
Regardless of the Lopetegui news, Spain are undoubtedly one of the better sides in this competition and with defeat significantly increasing their chances of an early exit, I do not expect an expansive Portuguese side in this encounter and can see why 8/15 is the general price for Under 2.5 Goals.
Spain are third favourites for this competition and despite Wednesday's news, I certainly wouldn’t oppose them at 33/5 with 188Bet.
It’s hard to make a case for their being a better goalkeeper than David De Gea right now, their backline possesses great strength, speed and leadership qualities, their midfield an abundance of creativity and in Isco they have the Golden Boot winner!
Portugal can be opposed
In contrast, Portugal’s side looks very laboured. Pepe, Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves have an average age of 35 and two of these are likely to start this game.
Yes, they still boost Cristiano Ronaldo but the 33-year-old is very much a penalty box player these days and I don’t see him getting the service he enjoys at club level. Santos’ side did win nine of their 10 qualifying matches in order to edge Switzerland to the automatic berth but their group was the weakest I have probably ever seen in Europe.
Alongside, the Swiss, they faced Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra so it’s highly likely they are facing tougher opposition here.
Again, correct score bets are prohibitive (5/1 on 1-0 to Spain is scarce) so once again it’s just the outright market and La Roja make plenty of appeal at 15/13.
Portugal v Spain – Spain to win (15/13 Unibet)