Spain get their 2018 World Cup campaign under way on Friday when they take on Portugal and they will do so without Julen Lopetegui, who was sensationally relieved of his position as head coach.
The 51-year-old was sacked by the Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Wednesday – just two days before their opening game – following the revelation that he is set to take over as Real Madrid manager .
La Roja will have to pick themselves up for the Group B clash against their Iberian rivals, who come into the tournament as European champions, having won Euro 2016 in France two summers ago.
The tournament may well be the last for Selecao captain Cristiano Ronaldo and the 33-year-old will be eager to help his country get off to the perfect start by beating one of the favourites.
|Game||Portugal vs Spain|
|Date||Friday, June 15|
|Time||7:00pm BST / 2:00pm ET|
|Stream (US only)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial).
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|FOX / Telemundo||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on TV on ITV or streamed live online using the ITV Player.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Rui Patricio, Beto, Lopes|
|Defenders||Alves, Pepe, Guerreiro, Fonte, Dias, Pereira, Rui, Cedric|
|Midfielders||M. Fernandes, Moutinho, Mario, B. Silva, Carvalho, B. Fernandes, Adrien Silva|
|Forwards||Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Guedes, Martins, Quaresma|
Head coach Fernando Santos has brought an experienced squad to Russia, with the likes of Pepe, Bruno Alves and Jose Fonte among the defenders in the panel.
Portugal have picked up no fresh injury concerns from their tournament warm-up games and preparation, so Santos should have a fully-fit squad available for Friday.
Potential Portugal XI: Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Moutinho, Carvalho, Mario, B. Silva; Guedes, Ronaldo.
|Goalkeepers||De Gea, Arrizabalaga, Reina|
|Defenders||Carvajal, Pique, Nacho, Ramos, Azpilicueta, Monreal, Odriozola, Alba|
|Midfielders||Busquets, Iniesta, Saul, Koke, Thiago, Asensio, Isco|
|Forwards||Rodrigo, Vazquez, Aspas, Costa, Silva|
The departure of Lopetegui has the potential to throw Spain’s plans into disarray, but the starting XI should remain the same nonetheless.
Alvaro Odriozola is likely to start at right-back ahead of Dani Carvajal after impressing in the Real Madrid defender’s absence in warm-up friendlies.
Potential Spain XI: De Gea; Odriozola, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Isco, Thiago, Silva; Costa.
Betting & Match Odds
Spain are 11/10 favourites to win the match, with Portugal priced at 3/1 to triumph according to dabblebet . A draw between the rivals is considered an 11/5 bet.
Ronaldo is favourite to score first at 4/1, with Diego Costa following at 9/2.
Click here to see all of dabblebet’s offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more.
The RFEF’s decision to dispense with the services of Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup has sent shockwaves through the Spain camp ahead of their opening match and it will be interesting to see how the players respond, with Fernando Hierro set to take the reins .
La Roja are among the favourites to win the competition, such is the wealth of talent within the squad, but their chances may have diminished somewhat without the guiding hand of the coach who steered them to the finals and the outcome of the game against Portugal could well set the tone for the remainder of their tournament.
Despite the sensational development, RFEF president Luis Rubiales insisted that the players would “do everything… to take the team as far as possible” as they attempt to win their second world title.
Portugal will be eager to take advantage of the apparent upheaval that is afflicting their rivals and a win in the first game would set them well on their way towards reaching the knock-out stage, with games against Morocco and Iran to come.
The European champions come into the tournament as unfancied outsiders, but they can send a message of intent to the rest of the contenders by beating Spain on Friday.