Spain have been priced up as favourites for the tournament ahead of the knockout stage and the first hurdle between them and the final is hosts Russia, who had to settle for the runners-up spot in Group A after they were hammered 3-0 in their last game against Uruguay. They had a fortunate draw in that they played two of the weakest teams in the tournament in the shape of Saudi Arabia and Egypt and we expect them to be exposed here against the Spaniards. Sides that we had ranked in the world’s top 10 have a W15-D8-L1 record when hosting teams below them in our rankings at this stage since 1990, suggesting the Spaniards look a fair price.
Spain are unbeaten in 15 away games and if we exclude sides we have ranked in the world’s top 10, they’ve won 24 of their last 27 competitive away matches. Russia tested themselves against some of the strongest sides in the world ahead of the tournament, but they generally struggled as they lost to the likes of France, Brazil and Argentina. Indeed, they’ve lost eight of their last 10 against teams we have ranked in the world’s top 10, though they did manage to find the net in half of these. Indeed, Spain have looked somewhat vulnerable defensively so far, conceding three times against Portugal and then twice against Morocco and so both teams to score looks the best way of adding some juice to the Spanish price.
Sergio Ramos netted a brace when these two met last November, with both goals coming from the penalty spot. We’ve seen plenty of penalties awarded at the tournament with the introduction of VAR and it would be no surprise to see another here against this slow Russian defence. However, Ramos was only on duties that day as David Silva was on the bench and we’ll take a chance on the Man City man netting the opener.