Croatia entertain Spain in a crucial Nations League game in Zagreb on Thursday night. The visitors appeared on course to reach the finals of the competition after securing victories in their opening two group stage games but the surprise 3-2 defeat to England has opened the permutations once more.
Spain would automatically qualification for next year’s finals with a victory over the Croatians but the hosts should provide a much better challenge than last time around where they were rolled over by a comfortable 6-0 margin.
Croatia can still reach the finals with victories over both Spain and England whilst the latter are dependent on Zlatko Dalic’s side denying Spain a victory. The Three Lions would thereafter have to beat the 2018 World Cup finalists at the Wembley Stadium to progress further.
Players to watch for:
Ivan Perisic – Croatia: With the retirement of Mario Mandzukic, the onus is on Ivan Perisic to step up to the plate. The Inter Milan star impressed during the early parts of the previous two matches against England and Spain but besides that, he happened to phase out with not much of an impact in the box. However, with Croatia in a do-or-die situation, the attacker needs to find his feet from his preferred left wing position and his crossing, in particular, could be essential against La Roja with Ante Rebic providing the physicality and height to ruffle the opposition backline.
Alvaro Morata – Spain: The Chelsea striker has yet to start a competitive game under Luis Enrique but we are backing him to do so in Zagreb after coming off a good run of form with the Blues. Morata has witnessed Rodrigo regularly get the nod ahead of him in recent months amid his limited impact at the club level but he has improved on that statistic of late with five goals coming off his previous seven appearances. In this period, Morata has impressed with his positioning in particular and he has also shown an improvement in his self-confidence with a better conversion rate than in the early part of the campaign.
Croatia 1-2 Spain
Image – Getty