Spain have justified their Euro 2016 favourites tag with some good performances in the competition so far. They have gradually looked better as the two matches have worn on, defeating the Czech Republic 1-0, and then Turkey 3-0. Now the question remains â€“ can they gather three points against Croatia on Tuesday as well?
Though Spain have already booked their slot in the pre-quarters, they need a draw or win to top the group. But, if Croatia manage to get the better of Spain, Vicente del Bosque's men will finish second, and face most likely Italy in their round of 16 clash, which they would like to avoid at all costs. Croatia, on the other hand, will also be keen to defeat Spain, and avoid the Azzurris. So this is a match, which will not be taken lightly by either team.
Registering a win for either team will help them go into the knockout stages with immense confidence. One of Spain's star players, David Silva, believes the contest os going to be a difficult one.
"At this stage it is normal that they make you favourites. But we need to keep our feet on the ground. We are calm and we need to continue that way. We have had a very good start. We have won two games and now we have a very difficult game against Croatia," goal.com quoted Silva as saying.
"We need to win or draw to stay top of the group. We need to maintain our level and if it remains so high, we can win the tournament."
There is no doubt about the world-class players in the Spain squad, and they can dominate any team in the world, if they get their game going. Turkey experienced a clinical performance from Spain, but Croatia are a much better unit.
With players like Alvaro Morata, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, they can put pressure on Croatia's defence, and dominate possession. But Croatia can take a leaf out of the Czech Republic book, after they stifled Spain's attackers, and looked solid at the back. If the Croats can defend well, their offensive players like Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic can look to score goals on the counter.
Croatia, despite their disappointing draw against the Czech Republic, have looked one of the best teams in the competition. But, talismanic player Luka Modric will not feature due to a thigh injury, which is a huge setback as Croatia's game revolves around the Real Madrid man. Rakitic will need to play a major role against Spain in his absence.
Ante Cacic, Croatia's manager, is aware about the tough match against Spain, and believes both the teams deserve to go into the knockout stages. But, they cannot afford another slipup, after squandering a 2-0 lead against Czech Republic.
"We are up against a quality side, the double European champions, a team full of quality, of players from Barcelona and Real Madrid. A team that know the game and take their chances. They have been playing big games like these for years. The group was really tough. We threw away victory against the Czech Republic, but this match now will help define how Croatia do from here onwards," UEFA's official website quoted Cacic as saying.
Where to watch live
Spain vs Croatia is scheduled for a 9 p.m. local time (12.30 a.m. IST, 8 p.m. BST, 3 p.m. ET) start. The live streaming and TV information you need is below.
Spain: TV: TeleCinco Espana.
Croatia: TV: HRT 2
UK: TV: ITV1. Live Streaming: ITV Hub.
USA: TV: ESPN and ESPN 3. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.
France: TV: Bein Sports. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Canada: TV: TSN and RDS. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Australia: TV: Bein Sports and SBS One. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
Germany: TV: ZDF and ORF.
China and Hong Kong: TV: CCTV and LeTV.
Thailand: TV: Channel 3.
Singapore: TV: Eleven Singapore and Singtel. Live Streaming: Singtel Go.
Malaysia: TV: Astro.
Latin America: TV: DirecTV.
Middle East and North Africa: TV: Bein Sports Max. Live Streaming: Bein SportsConnect.
South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa: TV: SuperSport 3. Live Streaming: SuperSport