World Cup 2018: Iran vs Spain prediction, odds, line-ups and preview as deadly Diego Costa aims to cut down Group B pace setters
Spain will be looking to make a big statement after last week’s shaky 3-3 draw with Portugal in the immediate aftermath of Julen Lopetegui’s sacking.
The nation expects:
The Spanish have had a week to get over the shock of the change of coach and now they will demand that usual service is restored against a team 27 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
Carlos Queiroz’s side have captured the imagination of the Islamic Republic and now have to cope with the frankly unrealistic expectations generated by their first World Cup win in 20 years when they should be allowed to settle for a narrow defeat.
Key battles/Star men:
Diego Costa reminded the watching world that he can bully the toughest defenders in the world last week and Iranian centre-half Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh will be steeling himself for a bruising evening in Kazan.
Nobody impressed against the Moroccans more than Iranian keeper Ali Beiranvand but Queiroz knows the chances of another clean sheet will be pretty remote.
Nobody will be under greater pressure this evening than Spanish keeper David De Gea, who was pilloried after his blunder against Portugal, the latest in a series of uncharacteristic international errors from the Manchester United star.
Iran’s biggest problem is simply finding a way past the no-nonsense Spanish defence to test De Gea’s nerves. Unless they are gifted another own goal, it’s difficult to see them scoring.
Likely line-ups and Team Talk
Acting boss Fernando Hierro is sticking with the under-fire de Gea and is giving the United keeper his complete backing. But he is ready to make one change from the Portugal game, with the fit-again Dani Carvajal replacing Nacho at right-back.
Probable Spain team (4-3-3): de Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Koke, Busquets, Iniesta; Silva, Costa, Isco.
Queiroz insists his team have nothing to lose and can only benefit from the experience of facing Spain, but they will be without key defender Roozbeh Cheshmi, who suffered an injury in training on Sunday.
Probable Iran team (4-1-4-1): Beiranvand; Rezaeian; Pouraliganji, Khanzadeh, Hajsafi; Ebrahimi; Jahanbakhsh, Shojaei, Amiri, Ansarifard; Azmoun.