Bottom of League A Group 4, still without a win and their confidence dashed by a 6-0 at the hands of Spain, World Cup Finalists Croatia welcome the Spanish on Thursday with only pride to play for. Their downturn in form since the World Cup has been more than spectacular and not even a win over Spain will help them avoid relegation from the top tier of the new Nations League format. Form Labs preview the game with their betting tips and don’t forget to check out our enhanced odds for the Nations League.
Enrique’s First Defeat
Luis Enrique has his first taste of defeat as the national teams’ manger, but England’s first half onslaught is unlikely to be repeated by a Croatia side whose standards have slipped woefully since the World Cup. They always faced a tough challenge to replicate such positive results after some crucial retirements, with Mario Mandzukic a particularly big loss up front. Indeed, the target man has been demonstrating his big game mentality with goals against the likes of Napoli, Milan and Lazio domestically this season for Juve.
Croatia’s Home Record
At first glance, Croatia appear to possess a phenomenal recent record on home turf, winning 17 of 22 matches since October 2013. However, the only teams of genuine quality they’ve faced over this period have been Belgium, Italy and England where they lost to the former and draw against a declining Azzurri side and transitioning Three Lions outfit. Even before some players understandably chose to go out on a high, Croatia’s run to the final in Russia was as soft as you could possibly hope for. They were utterly demolished by France when they finally encountered a top team in form and could have shipped more than the four they did. Meanwhile, Spain inflicted a 6-0 humiliation in the reverse fixture in their opening UEFA Nations League fixture, and are a fantastic price to take maximum points at odds-against.
Spain Need The Win
La Roja have no choice but to aim for the win, as anything other than three points will leave the door open for England to steal a spot in the inaugural showpiece event next summer. Even should the return of Dejan Lovren help tighten things out at the back, Spain can be expected to break them down eventually. Indeed, Spain have won nine of their last 11 competitive road trips, with the two exceptions a draw with Italy and that fateful knockout tie in Russia, as the hosts went on to beat them on penalties. Given they never conceded more than a single goal in any of those games and won to nil in seven, they appear well placed to keep a clean sheet against a Croatia side that have looked toothless up front without Mandzukic.
Spain’s hammering of the Croatia back in September saw five different goalscorers of their own plus an own goal, so the absences of Paco Alcacer and Diego Costa shouldn’t prove a heavy burden. Indeed, neither of those two were even in the squad that day. While Iago Aspas and Alvaro Morata warmed the bench on that occasion and will hope they’ll be afforded the opportunity this time, we’d prefer to turn our attention towards Isco in the goalscoring markets. The little playmaker is the cornerstone of this team under Luis Enrique and has a healthy 12 goals from 34 caps, though his growing influence can be demonstrated by the fact that 11 of these came from his last 18 appearances.
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