Morocco vs Spain predictions: La Roja can keep Atlas Lions at bay
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Simon Barlow
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Luis Enrique's Spain were shocked by Japan in the group stages but they tend to win the big games that matter
Luis Enrique's Spain were shocked by Japan in the group stages but they tend to win the big games that matter

- Spain's last six World Cup finals wins (in 90 min) have been achieved without conceding 
- Spain's last six wins outside friendlies have been accompanied by clean sheets 
- Recommended bet: Spain win to zero

Morocco will bid to reach their first-ever World Cup quarter-final when they face 2010 champions Spain at Education City Stadium on Tuesday.

The Atlas Lions' 2-1 win over Canada ensured they finished top of Group F and coach Walid Regragui has urged his team to continue to aim high.

They will be well-backed inside the stadium with more than 20,000 Moroccans expected to outnumber the Spanish support by a ratio of 10 to one.

Luis Enrique's side were on course to top Group E when Alvaro Morata headed them in font against Japan on Wednesday, but goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka halted Spain's seven-match unbeaten run (excluding shoot-outs) at the World Cup and pushed La Roja into the bottom half of the draw.

Team news

Regragui admitted he had "many doubts about injuries" within his squad and one of those appears to be midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who came off in the final 15 minutes of Thursday's win over Canada.

Some reports have suggested striker Walid Cheddira is also among them after he picked up a knock during a recent training session.

First-choice goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was able to take his place against Canada after missing the win over Belgium because he felt dizzy in the minutes just before kick-off.

Right-back Achraf Hakimi is expected to be passed fit despite nursing some ankle problems with Ragragui likely to keep changes to a minimum if possible.

For Spain, Enrique revealed that all his players are in perfect condition now with defender Cesar Azpilicueta and goalkeeper David Raya fully recovered from their respective issues.

Dani Olmo was the only other player to miss training for La Roja over the weekend, but it was believed that he was being rested after a gruelling group period.

Olmo is likely to retain his place in the side with Ferran Torres, Aymeric Laporte and Jordi Alba returning to the starting XI for the knockout stages after they made way to give Nico Williams, Pau Torres and Alejandro Balde opportunities against Japan.

The stats

Walid Regragui's joy at leading Morocco to the knockout stages may be tempered by injury concerns against Spain
Walid Regragui's joy at leading Morocco to the knockout stages may be tempered by injury concerns against Spain

Spain's tally of 969 passes against Japan was a record for a losing team at the World Cup.

Unai Simon is the goalkeeper with the highest number of attempted passes (113) in the tournament and the one with the highest accuracy (92.9%).

Alvaro Morata, who has scored three goals in his first three appearances at Qatar 2022, will join David Villa as just the second Spanish player to score in four consecutive World Cup matches if he notches again on Tuesday.

Morocco are featuring in the knockout stages of a World Cup for just the second time, having been beaten at this stage by West Germany in 1986.

The Atlas Lions, the last remaining African nation in the tournament, could equal the longest unbeaten run of any side from their continent at the World Cup — currently Cameroon's five-game sequence between 1982 and 1990.

Prediction

Morocco will not be underestimated by Spain, who needed a hotly-disputed stoppage-time leveller to claim a 2-2 draw against them in the group stage four years ago when other big decisions went against the African nation.

La Roja will dominate possession, but Japan showed just how teams can trouble Spain even with little of the ball.

A low-scoring contest could ensue as both coaches will be aware of the risks associated with pushing forward. 

Fewer than three goals were scored in Morocco's two toughest group games and Spain's standout Group E clash with Germany.

But the likelihood that one or both teams will not score cannot be ignored here as Spain have regularly kept clean sheets in big games that matter.

Spain's last six wins outside friendlies have been without conceding, if Luis Enrique's side make it through, the likelihood is that they will do it without shipping a goal.

A Spanish win to zero is an attractive option at evens with LiveScore Bet with Ferran Torres, who has scored 15 times in his last 33 internationals (24 as a starter) also looking worthy of support at 2/1 as an anytime goalscorer.

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