Croatia v Spain preview
Bilic urges Croatia to play 'best game of their lives' against holders
Last Updated: 18/06/12 10:38am
Croatia meet defending champions Spain for the first time in a major competition on Monday night with both sides sitting top of Group C, but neither yet guaranteed a spot in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
The two sides are level on four points at the top of their pool, two points clear of Italy, who face the already-eliminated Republic of Ireland in Monday's other group game.
A draw could be enough to send both teams through to the final eight even if the Azzurri win, depending on the scoreline at the PGE Arena in Gdansk.
But world and European champions Spain are unlikely to be satisfied sharing the spoils, particularly after their dominant 4-0 victory over the Irish last time out, which knocked Giovanni Trapattoni's men out of contention.
Croatia's second group game ended in a 1-1 draw after Mario Mandzukic scored a crucial equaliser against the Italians.
Spain midfielder Xavi is expecting a very open game of football in Gdansk as Vicente del Bosque's men look to take a step closer to defending their crown.
"I think it is going to be a beautiful game for the fans and for the players," the Barcelona midfielder said. "They will have to go all out and so will we.
"We depend on ourselves to qualify and we will try to win and be first of our group.
"However, Croatia are very good, they have a fantastic team, with great individual talent.
"I don't expect an easy game."
There are fears amongst Italian fans that the encounter could end in a 2-2 draw, a result that would see Croatia join Spain in the next round at the expense of the Azzurri.
"Absolutely not," Xavi said. "We only know how to play attacking football so a draw would not suit us.
"We will go out determined to hold possession, to move the ball and to go forward. This is our style of game and the one that made us European and world champions.
"Our aim is always to go out for victory and against Croatia it will be no exception. We will play to get three points from the first minute until the last."
Coach Slaven Bilic knows the Croats, who beat Ireland before holding Italy to a draw, will have to step up their game against the holders.
"We will need to play the best game of our lives," said Bilic, whose side hope to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the second straight time.
"We must be concentrated for 90 minutes.
"We have to work as a team and we are going to have to take our chances."
Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric will play in support of striker Mario Mandzukic, who is the joint-top scorer in the competition with three goals.
Spain will be at full strength with midfielder Sergio Busquets having recovered from a minor foot injury.
Fernando Torres is set to lead Spain's attack for the second consecutive game with the Chelsea striker having scored twice against Ireland.
European Championships Group A
European Championships Group B
European Championships Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||3||0|
European Championships Group D
Croatia v Spain
Sky Sports looks at some of the major topics to arise from the match between Croatia and Spain.
Croatia bowed out of Euro 2012 as Spain secured their place in the quarter-finals thanks to a 1-0 victory on a nervy night in Gdansk.
Fernando Torres says he is playing with confidence for Spain at Euro 2012 because he has the full backing of coach Vicente del Bosque.