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Euro 2016: Spain vs Croatia Player Battle - Andres Iniesta vs Ivan Rakitic

Rakitic and Iniesta will face off in tonight's Euro 2016 Group D match

iniesta and rakitic
Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic have both been excellent in Euro 2016

Spain take on Croatia in their final Group D match tonight and it promises to be a close encounter. Spain and Croatia currently occupy the first and second position respectively in the group, with Spain having been especially impressive in their first two matches.

Croatia have also impressed in their first two matches, having won their opening match against Turkey and playing out a 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic. In the likely absence of Modric, the one player capable of causing problems for Spain is Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic.

However, Ivan Rakitic’s partner in central midfield for Barcelona, Andres Iniesta has had a magnificent tournament himself. The Spaniard has been absolutely magical in the first two matches for Spain and he is already being touted by many as the favourite to win the Golden Ball this tournament. 

Without much ado, let us have an in-depth look into the midfield battle which is going to define the game: Rakitic vs Iniesta:

Ivan Rakitic

ivan rakitic croatia
Rakitic celebrates after scoring against Czech Republic

Ivan Rakitic has started off Euro 2016 in good form. The Croatian had an effective game against Turkey, while he was on the scoresheet against Czech Republic. With Luka Modric most likely to be on the bench against Spain, the onus will be on Rakitic to unlock the miserly Spanish defence.

Strengths

A player who never gets tired and always provides options in attack, Ivan Rakitic has already gained worldwide recognition thanks to his exploits with Barcelona. He is one of the most important names in this Croatia line up as he is capable of providing a defence-splitting pass as well as helping out defensively, taking the pressure off his midfield colleagues. He is a player who is not afraid of getting his hands dirty, and can be dangerous in the attacking third of the pitch with his eye for goal.

A player who keeps working hard right until the final whistle, Rakitc has a knack of scoring important goals and he will be determined to help Croatia put in a good performance against Spain. He is a leader on the pitch, and he is always ready to sacrifice himself for the team’s cause.

Weaknesses

While Ivan Rakitic is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world, his style of play is not particularly suited to that of Croatia’s star striker Mario Mandzukic. Mandzukic thrives on balls being sent into the box and Rakitic’s neat intricate build-up play might not be to the big target man's liking.

Also, there is a risk of Rakitic wanting to do much for the team on his own and his midfield battles against the likes of Busquets, Iniesta and Koke might prove to be too much of a challenge for the Croatian superstar.

Andres Iniesta

andres iniesta
Iniesta has been simply superb for Spain in Euro 2016

Undoubtedly the best player in the Spanish side so far, Andres Iniesta has been absolutely magical. He was in inspired form against the Czechs, and he just continued that good form in the second match against Turkey as well. Croatia will definitely have to be wary of the midfield maestro.

Strengths

One of the best midfielders to have ever played the beautiful game, Andres Iniesta is simply a joy to watch. Iniesta always seems to find space no matter how crowded the midfield is and he has been key to Spain’s all round passing and possession.

Iniesta is undoubtedly the conductor of the Spanish orchestra and his dribbling, first touch and close control have simply been amazing. The Spaniard’s assist for Gerard Pique’s goal against the Czechs was a thing of beauty demonstrating Iniesta’s class, ability and decision-making skills.

A wonderful dribbler and an excellent passer, Iniesta is undoubtedly the creative genius of this excellent Spanish side.

Weaknesses

To find weaknesses in a player of Iniesta’s calibre is almost impossible, but if there is one thing lacking in his game, it is his willingness to track back and help out in the defensive side of the game. 

Another area where he can improve is his goal-scoring record for Spain, but one is just clutching at straws here as he has time and again popped up with some important goals in his career.

Verdict

Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta are two of the best midfielders in the game currently and their battle at the centre of the park is definitely going to be an interesting battle to watch out far.

While Rakitic is more like a box-to-box midfielder and contributes defensively as well, Andres Iniesta's contribution in the final third is almost invaluable.

We predict Andres Iniesta to come out on top in this player battle simply because Iniesta has put in some absolutely stunning performances this season already and looks likely to win the Golden Ball as well.

Rakitic himself knew how good his Barcelona team-mate was playing for Spain. When asked about his opinions on Iniesta, Rakitic said:

I don't think Andres is surprising anyone with his superb performances,"

"He has reached such a high level that we are only surprised if he is not at that high level.

"To speak about Andres is to talk about the magic of football, the enjoyment.

"I think he is enjoying himself enough now, but I hope he has a rest against us."

It is upto the two midfield magicians now to dazzle us again with their skills. 

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