- Ukraine continued their impressive run with a 2-1 win over 12th ranked Switzerland last time out. They also racked up 1.72 xG to Switzerland's 0.51. Although the xG isn't massive here it was clear they were very wasteful with their chances in that came, they could have scored 3 or 4 if they were dialled in a bit more.
- Ukraine have a small advantage considering a lot of their players have some domestic football under their belts already this season. 16 players in their squad play for either Shakhtar or Dynamo and they've already got a few games under their belt, unlike the Spanish team who are just returning from their holidays.
- These Dynamo and Shakhtar players have played one league game and the Super Cup so far this season.
- Ukraine haven't lost a match since the 2018 UNL match with Slovakia. They lost 4-1, but this was a meaningless game, and they fielded a B team.
- In fact, Under Shevchenko, they've only lost 4 competitive matches. Two to Croatia in WC qualifying (2018) once to Iceland, and once to Slovakia.
- If we ignore that meaningless game with Slovakia, it's been 3 years since they lost by a 2 or more goal margin. That loss to Croatia wasn't that bad either. Yes, they conceded twice, but they only allowed 0.45xG and two attempts on target. Unlucky? I think we can file that under a bad beat, it was a very even game.
- In their Euro qualification campaign, they topped their group beating Portugal and Serbia and going unbeaten in the process (17 scored, 4 conceded) Only a handful of countries had defensive numbers as good as Ukraine.
- I expect Ukraine to surrender possession in this game much as they did against Portugal in the ECQ games reverting to a 4-5-1 in a narrow, deep block. Spain may have space for long-range attempts, but I don't see them having a massive amount of success with limited space to work.
- In their 2-1 win over Portugal, they conceded 25 attempts on goal, but none were big chances (Portugal scored from a penalty)
- Spain picked up a 1-1 with a less than full strength German side last time out.
- Gaya's goal in the 95th minute (0.59xG) was Spain's biggest chance and was down to poor defending. Overall they didn't look great
- Do Spain treat this competition very seriously? It's hard to say but last time out there were defensive concerns. Thye allowed 1.75 goals per game and only kept one clean sheet. Croatia and England both put 3 past them.
- Spain were ruthless as ever in ECQ but their only real test there was Sweden (1 win, 1 draw).
- Luis Enrique who has returned to the fold after the death of his daughter has now taken charge of 7 Spanish games. From those 7 games only two were resounding victories. A 6-0 against Croatia which on paper looks great but we have to remember Croatia were not at full strength and were coming off a tiring WC hangover. Spain also only created 1.78xG scoring 6 goals from 7 attempts on target. The Wales win was in a friendly (4-1)
Final Word: Ukraine look the hungrier of the two and I think they have a great chance to keep this game competitive and possibly spring an upset.
Ukraine +1.5 Asian Handicap at 1.74 with Pinnacle - 2 units