Luka Modric might have only played a little over a game and a half in Euro 2016, but the midfielder has already lit up the tournament with his brilliance. So, it will be with open arms that Croatia welcome their talisman as Portugal await in a mouth-watering Euro 2016 round of 16 match in Lens.
Modric has already won Croatia one match with a wonder strike against Turkey in their Euro 2016 opener, and while the Croats picked up their most impressive win of the tournament – over Spain – without the midfielder, there is no doubting the importance that the former Tottenham man holds to this Croatia lineup.
The 30-year-old will not only give a lift to the rest of the Croatia players by returning to the starting XI, but, more importantly, he should give his team the midfield control, which in turn gives them an opportunity to create more chances.
Modric, who along with Mario Mandzukic, were rested for the 2-1 win over Spain to prevent aggravations of slight muscle injuries, will also want to stop his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo from continuing his goalscoring form, after the superstar finally found the back of the net in Portugal's cannot-take-your-eyes-off-it 3-3 draw with Hungary.
That performance will make Croatia wary, because if Ronaldo goes on a goalscoring run, Portugal will be pretty hard to stop.
Having rested quite a few of his players, Croatia manager Ante Cacic is set to bring back his preferred lineup, with Modric and Mandzukic set to be joined by Ivan Strinic, Domagoj Vida and Marcelo Brozovic all returning.
The key for Croatia will be Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and if the two can run the show in midfield, Portugal will find it difficult, because they cannot expect to keep coming back from a goal down, much like they did against Hungary, especially against a quality team like Croatia.
One man Fernando Santos, the Portugal manager, will look to, to stop the likes of Modric, Rakitic, Brozovic and Ivan Perisic, who has been one of the players of Euro 2016 so far, from dominating, is William Carvalho. The Portugal holding midfielder has the difficult task of protecting his defence against the much-vaunted Croatia lineup, while ensuring he moves that ball forward quickly so that Ronaldo, Nani and co. can do what they do best.
Left-back Raphael Guerreiro is set to return to the Portugal starting XI in place of Eliseu, after missing the Hungary draw through injury, but the rest of the team should be the same.
Confirmed starting XI: Croatia: Subasic; Srna, Corluka, Vida, Strinic; Modric, Badelj; Brozovic, Rakitic, Perisic; Mandzukic.
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, Andre Gomes; Nani, Ronaldo.