Spain continued their preparations for their World Cup game against Iran on Wednesday by taking to the field for a training session.
Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta were among the stars to train in Russia with La Roja looking to get their first win of the competition after their 3-3 draw with European champions Portugal on Friday night.
Watch the Spaniards in action in our video below:
Portugal head into their second Group B clash riding the crest of a wave after a stunning 3-3 draw with Spain.
In contrast, Morocco, their opponents on Wednesday, will attempt to arise from the slump of a confidence-sapping 1-0 defeat to Iran.
The Atlas Lions didn’t face a single shot in the second half, a testament to their stoicism, but substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz turned a header into his own net deep into injury time to break Morocco’s resistance and their hearts.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the headline act of the first round of fixtures as he took centre-stage with a majestic 88th-minute free-kick sealing a hat-trick and a point against La Roja.
Now, Portugal will aim to place one foot in the knockouts with victory at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the key questions.
BENATIA REDEMPTION OR WILL RONALDO RULE AGAIN?
Morocco captain and lead defender Medhi Benatia must be sick of the sight of Ronaldo.
The 31-year-old was on the bench as the Portuguese powerhouse ripped apart Juventus in the 2016/17 Champions League final and then in the quarter-final of last season’s edition, Benatia gave away the crucial 96th-minute penalty which Ronaldo dispatched to send Real Madrid through.
But the beating heart and soul of the Lions will seek redemption with more than pride on the line because a successful revenge mission will launch Herve Renard’s side back into last-16 contention.
He can draw on inspiration from Morocco’s last encounter with Portugal at Mexico 1986 when a 3-1 victory saw them top the group and become the first African nation to qualify for the knockouts.
Imperious against Iran, Benatia won five aerials, made three clearances, blocked one shot, made 103 touches while his 92 passes found 82 per cent of their targets. He was largely at ease until the unfortunate late own goal.
The French-born Bianconeri centre-back must mirror the strength of that performance to strangle the influence of a Ronaldo with his chest out.
The 33-year-old was at his rampaging best against Spain, the one-man equaliser dragging his nation back into the game at every turn.
He arrived to Russia in peak physical condition, a testament to his developing fitness through the season and is a picture of focus as he aims to carry Portugal through another major tournament.
Many try to fight the Portugal=Ronaldo narrative but it’s difficult to ignore. Benatia is certainly one player who will only have Ronaldo in his thoughts, though.
ZIYECH’S CHANCE TO SHINE?
Morocco were tipped as one of the strongest African outfits at this World Cup with defensive rigidity hallmarking their impressive qualification campaign.
It was hoped the substance would be matched by the stylish creative output of Ajax star Hakim Ziyech – the leading assist-maker (15) in the Eredivisie last season – with the winger adding a diamond sheen to their rocky core.
But his performance against Iran was peculiar. Renard’s tactic it seemed was to use Ziyech and his twin initiator Younes Belhanda as first receivers from the back and it resulted in either a tight slalom through a congested midfield or wayward long diagonal balls into pockets of space behind the full-backs.
There was no deviation from the plan and Morocco were bereft of ideas and ingenuity, Ziyech a frustrated figure whenever he did search for a quick interchange further up the pitch with quality around him lacking.
Renard’s men are far better suited as a catch-and-counter side rather than as the initial trigger with the speed and trickery of Ziyech tailor-made for open pitch on the break.
Stationed deep and infield is not where you see the best of the 25-year-old so the Portugal fixture could actually be to his benefit.
The European champions will be expected to take the initiative and bring the game to Morocco and Ziyech should have far more joy cutting inside from the right into the space between enterprising full-back Raphael Guerreiro and the flat-footed centre-back Jose Fonte.
GUEDES OR SILVA TO PARTNER SKIPPER?
The big selection dilemma for Portugal boss Fernando Santos is whether to drop the disappointing Goncalo Guedes for Andre Silva in the support slot for Ronaldo.
A precocious talent, Guedes was outstanding on loan with Valencia last season but his inexperience emerged in the Spain draw.
Hesitation reigned over his usual clarity of thought as the 21-year-old cost Portugal two glaring openings and AC Milan forward Silva is expected to be brought back into the starting XI.
The 22-year-old is a more natural fit up top – Guedes ordinarily operates in a wider berth – and has proven to be a model foil to Ronaldo.
“When Cristiano Ronaldo needs me to do something I’m always there and when I need him to do it he is always there,” Silva explained in the pre-match build-up.
“When Cristiano is further forward I can defend, I occupy the spaces that I need to and when the two of us are up front, we can open up spaces for each other with our movement”.
Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler believes Mohamed Salah’s injury is worse than he is letting on and he would be “amazed” if the Egyptian star was fit to take on Russia this evening in St Petersburg at 22:00 (UAE Tme).
“In all honesty, anyone who has had a shoulder injury in football will tell you – it’s a tough injury to get hold of,” said Fowler at Abu Dhabi Golf Club World Cup Fan Zone on Monday.
“I was actually amazed that he made it to the (Egypt) squad for the World Cup.”
Fowler said Salah would be desperate to take his place for the Pharaohs in the do or die clash.
“He’s the type of player who doesn’t want to miss out and he’s got a lot to give,” said the former England striker.
“But I don’t know, the fact that he never played the other day (against Uruguay) tells you he’d be a lot sorer than a lot of us envisaged.
“All the talk is he’s going to be ready for the next game (today), but if he’s ready for the next game he should have been ready for the game just gone.”
However Fowler is still optimistic about Egypt’s chances in the World Cup, even without Salah, and says it’s unfair to label them as a one-man team.
“I think you’re being a bit unfair,” he said. “I know they lost the game but it could have gone either way. I thought they were a little bit unlucky Egypt to be fair (against Uruguay).
“They qualified and obviously Mo Salah is the main talisman, he’s one of those players who can get goals out of anywhere. But it’s like any team you look at – Argentina with (Lionel) Messi, you’re obviously relying on other players to come into the fold.
“You look at even Brazil – there’s a lot of pressure on the likes of (Philippe) Coutinho, there’s Neymar to come in – but you always need the player to deliver.
“So instead of like Egypt, putting all the pressure on Mo Salah to get fit and to do well and to score goals, it should never be about that.
“He never qualified on his own. As much as he scored the winning goals, it takes a little bit more than just the one man.”
The 43-year-old believes that a fully fit Salah would have a massive impact on the tournament.
“If Mo Salah was to come into this game – fully fit Mo Salah – then it would have been brilliant watching him,” he said, “and I actually believe he could’ve been the man to get them (Egypt) out of that group.
“As it turns out Russia had a great result against Saudi (a 5-0 victory) but there’s still a lot to play for, that’s why he’s maybe going to play the next game.”
Quizzed about the how Salah suffered the injury in the Champions League final, Fowler said although Sergio Ramos “knew what he was doing” he did not believe the Real Madrid defender set out to intentionally hurt the Egyptian.
“I thought Ramos as a player knew what he was doing,” said Fowler, “I’m not saying he knew what he was doing in getting him really really injured.
“He (Ramos)… wanted to stop him (Salah) from doing what he does and maybe pull him down.
"You be Ramos and I'll be Salah" 🤼♂️ pic.twitter.com/2DCIdTjgj6— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) June 16, 2018
“But of course, I think everyone who has played the game will tell you – yeah he’s meant to bring him down – but I don’t think he’s meant to hurt him to the capacity (extent) that he has.
“That’s just him trying to get one of the star players from Liverpool… just maybe try to get them to be quiet.
“It happens all the time in football – I wouldn’t put too much blame on him. I mean Ramos’ done it but players do it all the time. It’s just trying to get an onus on a centre forward.
“But I don’t think he’s meant to hurt him to the way he has hurt him.”