Spain football team
Spain football team Reuters

Spain has been one of the many pre-tournament favourites yet to impress in this Fifa World Cup 2018. With Germany, Argentina and Portugal – the 2014 World Cup winners, the 2014 finalists and the European champions respectively – already eliminated, Spain will not want to join that particular list come to the end of the 90 minutes against the hosts Russia on Sunday.

This last 16 match will see Spain start as the obvious favourites again, but not as clear a favourite as they would have been had this game been previewed before the start of the tournament.

A lot has happened since the start of this World Cup when Spain, before the Julen Lopetegui fiasco, looked primed to go deep and Russia looked certain to crash and burn in the group stages.

Russia, however, began the Fifa World Cup 2018 in stupendous fashion, putting Saudi Arabia to the sword, before confirming qualification to the knockout rounds with one match to spare. They might have been brought down to earth by Uruguay in their final group match, but they have scored goals aplenty and they certainly have the firepower to trouble Spain.

The 2010 World Cup champions have struggled a little. While they managed to put three past Portugal in their opening match, that only led to a draw, with Spain then scraping past Iran courtesy a lucky goal.

Then, Morocco gave them a major fright in the final group game, but that 2-2 draw – thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser – somehow, proved to be enough to top Group B.

As a result, they will play Russia and it will be interesting to see if Spain can finally find their mojo.

Team news:

Spain:

Pressure continues to mount on David de Gea, with the Manchester United goalkeeper constantly criticised for his performances in a Spain shirt. For some reason, De Gea just doesn't seem to be as reliable in international football, but maybe a solid performance against Russia, who will create chances, is what he needs to get his confidence back.

Fernando Hierro, the manager, has no doubt that De Gea is his starting goalkeeper, with the goalkeeper's team-mate Thiago Alcantara also coming to his defence.

"The media also need to take a look at themselves and realise what a great player he is," Thiago said of De Gea. "Look how many times he has been named best goalkeeper in the Premier League. He works like a bloody animal and the confidence we have in him is gigantic."

There are some murmurs going around that David Silva could be replaced in the starting XI, with Marco Asensio and Iago Aspas in contention.

Russia:

Igor Smolnikov is suspended for the hosts after the defender picked up a red card in the defeat to Uruguay. Mario Fernandes will return to the starting XI in his place. The likes of Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Golovin will be back in the playing XI after they were rested against Uruguay.

Spain: David De Gea; Dani Carvajal, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, Marco Asensio, Isco, Andres Iniesta; Diego Costa.

Russia: Igor Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergey Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov; Yuri Gazinski, Roman Zobnin; Aleksandr Samedov, Aleksandr Golovin, Denis Cheryshev; Artem Dzyuba.