Group B favorites lock horns in Iberian derby

Football fans all over the world will receive the first of the treats lined up at this year’s World Cup when the neighboring countries make their bow. Both Portugal and Spain are undisputed favorites in their group due to the caliber of players they all boast in their ranks.

However, only one team can occupy the top spot at the end of all the group stage matches and that is exactly what the outcome of this encounter might determine. Featuring alongside Morocco and Iran in Group B, a win for either side will supply the needed momentum to approach the other games.

Spain will particularly need the impetus after news of head coach Julen Lopetegui getting sacked rocked their camp on Wednesday morning. As professionals, this should not affect their mentality although the absence of the man initially mandated to call the shots in the camp comes as a huge loss.

Lopetugui – whose appointment as the new Real Madrid boss triggered his dismissal – did not lose any of the 20 games he oversaw as La Roja manager since he took over from Vicente Del Bosque in 2016. Under his guidance, the 2010 World Cup winners recorded 14 wins and six draws.

With Spain desperate to fix the impression after poor campaigns at Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016, the only objective will be to emulate the blueprint of Lopetugui – even with Fernando Hierro now taking over the reins.

Portugal, on the other hand, will aim to capitalize on the dazing development in the camp of their neighbors. The Euro 2016 winners sealed their spot at Russia 2018 by winning nine out of their 10 qualifying games and recorded some huge score lines on their way as well.

Their form in recent time, however, has not been quite atypical with them managing just two wins in their last five matches. Cristiano Ronaldo and co. come into Friday’s encounter on the back of a 3-0 victory over Algeria and they will only hope that momentum gained will be enough to fetch them a win over their neighbors.

Spain and Portugal have met on 36 separate occasions and La Roja has frequently been at the better side of the results. They have been victorious in 18 matches and have lost just six times to the Seleccao.

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