Following an impressive qualification campaign which saw them comfortably top a potentially tricky group, Spain will surely be among the favourites for next summer’s World Cup and their build-up to the tournament begins with a friendly against Costa Rica in Malaga’s La Rosaleda stadium.
Julen Lopetegui is likely to use the game to give minutes to some of the less experienced members of the squad. Lazio defender Luis Alberto was a surprise call-up, while Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno will be hoping for his first international appearance in four years and Milan forward Suso aims to make his debut.
Generally, of course, La Roja are extremely tough to beat, although their last two friendlies on home soil have been a little unconvincing with June seeing them net late on to salvage a 2-2 against Colombia, while last year they suffered a shock defeat to Georgia before Euro 2016.
Nevertheless, Spain remain unbeaten in the 14 matches since Lopetegui took over at the helm, of which they have won 11 and Betfair offer them at 1/8 (1.12) for another victory.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, will also be in Russia next year after finishing second in CONCACAF’s hexagonal qualifying tournament and this weekend’s game will be Los Ticos’ first friendly of the year, with their last non-competitive fixture seeing them play out a thrilling 4-3 win against Russia in October 2016.
The Central Americans were surprise quarter finalists in Brazil four years ago – although no one realistically expects them to repeat that historic achievement next summer – and Costa Rica are priced at 20/1 (21.00) to win on Saturday.
Despite the goal-filled encounter against Russia last year, Costa Rica’s recent games have been relatively low scoring, and the visitors are likely to struggle against a resolute Spanish defence; indeed, La Roja conceded just three times in World Cup qualifying, although in friendlies they have not been quite as strong defensively.
Nevertheless, the price of 6/4 (2.50) for under 2.5 goals in the game could appeal, while the price of evens (2.00) for the first goal to come after 23 minutes looks unmissable.
This bet has paid out in each of Costa Rica’s last six matches, as well as in four of Spain’s last six friendlies, and appears to be an excellent option for Saturday’s encounter.