Croatia and Spain are two big teams in Euro 2016 Group D, with wonderful midfielders in their sides. A cracker of a contest is expected when these two nations clash at Stade de Bordeaux on Tuesday. However, Croatia will be without their star player, Luka Modric, who suffered a thigh injury in their last match against the Czech Republic.
Spain have been one of the best teams in Euro 2016 so far. They have already booked a spot for the round of 16, and could finish top of the group with a win against Croatia. Spain's triumph over Czech Republic might have been by a narrow margin, 1-0, but they were ruthless against Turkey, hammering three goals.
Croatia, right from the start, have looked a great offensive unit, threating to score goals with their brilliant movement. After a 1-0 win over Turkey, they played some of their best football against Czech Republic, but their fans threw flares on the pitch with Croatia leading 2-1, which was embarrassing. The game was brought to halt for a few minutes, and Croatia players lost thir concentration, allowing the Czech Republic to equalise.
As a result, Croatia have not yet qualified for the round of 16, and they need a draw to guarantee their spot. With Mordic out, they need Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic to play a huge role in midfield, and Mario Mandzukic has to get the goals up front. However, Croatia have a fine midfielder to replace Modric in the form of Mateo Kovacic, the former's Real Madrid teammate.
Though their offence looks good, it is their defence, which needs to stand firm. As reflected in their game against Czech Republic, they can go hot and cold. Central defender Vedran Corluka is doubtful for the game after picking up a head injury during the Czech Republic game.
With Spain fond of possession football, they will look for precise balls to their striker Alvaro Morata, who scored a brace against Turkey. Croatia will get their chance of playing some counterattacking football, where they excel as well.
Spain have not showed much signs of weakness in Euro 2016. But, to be fair, they have not been really tested by the two teams in the earlier matches. Croatia will prove to be their biggest test, and they will aim to become the first team to reach the round of 16 with three wins.
Manager Vicente del Bosque have a whole range of players to choose from. It remains to be seen if he will fall in the bracket of France manager Didier Deschamps and England boss Roy Hodgson, as both of them made some changes for their respective last group match.
It would not come as a surprise if Del Bosque opts to rest some players, and give others a chance. They have the luxury to do so, as they have an embarrassment of riches. One of their players, Pedro Rodriguez, who started the first two matches from the bench, could be handed a chance to prove his worth.
It would be sensible, if Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos is left out of the starting XI as he is just one yellow card away from suspension. The Spain defence is going to be tested by Croatia's attackers, and one would also get to know about La Roja's quality at the back.
Expected starting XI: Croatia: Subasic, Srna, Corluka, Vida, Strinic; Brozovic, Badelj, Kovacic, Rakitic, Perisic; Mandzukic.
Spain: De Gea; Juanfran, Pique, San Jose, Alba; Busquets; Pedro, Fabregas, Iniesta, Nolito; Morata.