Picking the Best Potential Spain Lineup to Play Russia on Sunday in Moscow

Spain face World Cup hosts Russia on Sunday for an intriguing last 16 tie at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The Spaniards won just one of their three group games but are expected to see off Russia, who impressed against Saudi Arabia and Egypt before getting thrashed 3-0 by Uruguay.

Here’s who is expected to take the field for Fernando Hierro’s side.

1. GK – David de Gea

There had been reports earlier in the week claiming that Hierro could look to drop De Gea but the Manchester United goalie will play after his manager confirmed he is set to start.

The 27-year-old played in each of Spain’s three group games, conceding five goals and keeping one clean sheet.

2. RB – Dani Carvajal

Seen as one of Europe’s premier right backs, Carvajal has had his injury problems previously with Real Madrid but should start for Spain as they look to assert themselves as one of the favourites for the tournament with a win against Russia.

The 26-year-old has 17 caps for his national side and is yet to score an international goal, although he did net once for the Under-21 side.

3. CB – Sergio Ramos

The evil Real Madrid defender has faced bigger challenges and better attacks than Russia’s current forward line, but Spain’s captain will still need to be at his best.

His side have been far too open during their opening games and Ramos was even involved in a major calamity when he left a ball for Iniesta only for Morroco’s Khalid Boutaib to steal possession, running through to score.

4. CB – Gerard Pique

The Barcelona defender was noticeably below par during the Morocco draw an could have been sent off for a rash, studs up challenge.

However, the 31-year-old has recently struggled with injury in training, as reported by the Mirror, and could face a race to be fit.

5. LB – Jordi Alba

Perhaps second only to Real Madrid and Brazil star Marcelo as the world’s greatest left back, Alba will start again here.

The 29-year-old is known for bombing forward and will be looking to add to the two goals and eight assists he notched during the 2017/18 La Liga season.

6. MF – Koke

The Atletico Madrid midfielder has had to bide his time on the international scene but could start on Sunday, as David Silva could miss out.

Koke could play alongside Sergio Busquets as a defensive midfielder, or as part of a three with Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta.

7. MF – Sergio Busquets

Busquets is the often uncredited link between Spain’s defence and attacking midfield, so often twisting and turning elegantly to supply those further forward with good possession.

The Barcelona midfielder should start, although he is one booking away from a suspension.

8. MF – Andres Iniesta

Football fans have already seen moments of Andres Iniesta’s immeasurable talent that have made us all sad that this is the modern legend’s final World Cup.

The 34-year-old could play on the left or through the middle, but expect the same incredible level of performance from him wherever he plays.

9. MF – Isco

The Real Madrid magician has been in good form during the World Cup so far, having established himself as one of the best playmakers in the world thanks to some glittering performances in La Liga over the past few seasons.

If Isco watched Uruguay’s 3-0 humbling of Russia, he would no doubt have been licking his lips at the prospect of facing a team lacking in defensive quality.

10. MF – Marco Asensio

Asensio has mainly had to make do with a substitute role at this World Cup, which he has had no issue making his own during his time with Real Madrid.

However, should he start tomorrow, expect an few shots from distance from the 22-year-old, and possibly a goal.

11. FW – Diego Costa

Diego Costa needs a big game if he’s to challenge the top marksmen at this tournament for the Golden Boot.

Uncharacteristically quiet during the draw with Morocco, Costa is still two goals behind England’s Harry Kane and one behind both Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Expect a good performance.


Javier Mascherano Confirms Retirement From International Football After Argentina’s 4-3 France Loss

?Javier Mascherano has confirmed his retirement from international football after Argentina were defeated ?4-3 by France in a classic World Cup tie on Saturday, stating it is now time for younger players to step up to the mark.

A Kylian Mbappe hat trick alongside Antoine Griezmann’s penalty saw France through to the quarter finals by the skin of their teeth, despite Angel Di Maria’s rocket, Gabriel Mercato’s scrappy finish and Sergio Aguero’s late header.

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Mascherano, who now plays in China after leaving ?Barcelona in January, told reporters as quoted by ?ESPN: “This story has ended. We gave it our everything until the end,” the former Barcelona and Liverpool man told cameras after the match.

“It was a crazy match, in which we didn’t start well but we recovered and we turned it around. But their tying goal did so much damage to us.

“It cost us so much to lift ourselves up again. From this point on I will be just another fan of the Argentina national team. It is over. The illusion is shattered.

“It’s time to say goodbye and for the younger players to step in.”

Lucas Biglia has announced his international retirement, while there is also uncertainty over the future of ?Lionel Messi at international level, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner previously quitting Argentina duty after failing to win silverware.

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

The Barcelona magician could not inspire an average Argentina team to improve upon their second place finish from four years ago, despite playing an integral role in the 2-1 win against Nigeria.


PHOTO: Why the View From Argentina’s Team Hotel May Keep Messi Away From the Windows

Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates barely scraped through to the knockout stages of the  2018 World Cup. And they probably couldn’t have been handed a more daunting matchup than France, who are one of the favourites to win the tournament outright.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the view from La Albiceleste’s current team hotel could really be getting under Messi’s skin as there’s a mural of rival Cristiano Ronaldo right outside.

While the pair aren’t thought to have personal differences, they’re fiercely juxtaposed by fans. And this present World Cup could prove a deciding factor in who goes down as the best in the world during the Ronaldo/Messi era.

The mural, meanwhile, was painted on a building right next to Argentina’s hotel for the Confederations Cup last year as welcome for Portugal.

The South American contingent are staying in the very same hotel the Euro 16 winners bunked in back then, but the mural is still there and isn’t likely to be painted over anytime soon.

Messi probably won’t pay much attention to the painting, but he’d surely prefer it if it wasn’t there at all.

So with the group stage of the competition now all sewn up, Argentina will be playing France at the Kazan Arena on Saturday, while Portugal are poised to face Uruguay at the Fisht Stadium in the day’s late game.


Barcelona Tipped to Move for Ajax Talent Frenkie de Jong 12 Months Earlier Than Expected

?Barcelona have been tipped to make a move for emerging Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong this summer, instead of waiting a year until 2019 to sing the player as had initially been expected.

Barça may already have lost one rumoured target at Ajax as teenage defender Matthijs de Ligt looks increasingly likely to join Juventus instead, but they hope they will be able to land De Jong if they move quickly.

Dutch Eredivisie'Ajax	 v ADO Den Haag'

According to Mundo Deportivo (MD), the Catalan giants established contact with De Jong several months ago with a view to making him a Barça player next year. But to ensure they will not miss out, the club is apparently set to make an earlier approach to do the deal now.

It is said that pressure from the player, who seemingly does not wish to wait any longer for his big move, and from the competitive transfer market in general could force Barça into action.

One thing to be aware of is that Ajax may not play ball. MD notes that the Dutch giants are not keen to lose any more key talents after recently selling Justin Kluivert to Ajax, not least because the Eredivisie title hasn’t made its way to the Amsterdam ArenA since 2014.

The only thing that may suit both Barça and Ajax, who share nine European Cup successes between them, is agreeing some kind of advance purchase option.

Dutch Eredivisie'PEC Zwolle v Ajax'

Barça used a similar arrangement to secure the signature of Yerry Mina long before he actually arrived from Palmeiras in January. Another purchase option was then subsequently used to secure a deal for Gremio midfielder Arthur and has become a regular Camp Nou tactic.


Chelsea Reject £50m Bid for Willian as Barcelona Make First Move to Sign Man Utd Target

??Chelsea have rejected a £50m bid from Barcelona for midfielder Willian as the Spanish champions race ahead of ?Manchester United in pursuit of the Brazilian.

Despite winning La Liga at a canter, ?Barcelona want to bolster their attacking options further to make themselves more competitive in the Champions League.

They have identified Willian as the solution to their problems as they plan to utilise his existing relationship with Philippe Coutinho, who plays alongside him for Brazil.

Serbia v Brazil: Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

The ?Daily Mail reports that Willian’s representatives have travelled to Barcelona for discussions. Chelsea are unwilling to sell but they are not in a strong bargaining position as they cannot offer Champions League football next season.

There is also continued uncertainty over the managerial position at Stamford Bridge, and Willian may take his chances with the more stable situation at Barcelona.

Manchester United have been strongly linked with the 29-year-old but despite registering their interest they are yet to post a concrete bid.

Willian is a very popular figure at Chelsea and he is contracted to the club for another two years, but with his 30th birthday less than two months away the Blues are aware that they are unlikely to get a better bid for an ageing player.

If Willian were to leave, Chelsea have a number of youthful options lined up to replace him including Dortmund’s American winger ?Christian Pulisic and 22-year-old Russian World Cup star ?Aleksandr Gololvin, of CSKA Moscow.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia'Serbia v Brazil'

Willian joined Chelsea from Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013 and has since made over 200 appearances for the Blues, scoring 44 goals and winning two Premier League titles.