Spain scoff at Euro fix
Champions scorn claims of Group C pact with Croatia
SPAIN midfielder Juan Mata knows just how dangerous Croatia will be this eveining when the two sides meet in their final Euro 2012 Group C game.
Both sides still need something from the match to be sure of reaching the semi-final stage, with Italy two points behind them and favourites to beat the already eliminated Republic of Ireland.
Chelsea midfielder Mata will be facing plenty of familiar players from the Premier League, with Croatians Lukas Modric, Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar and Nikica Jelavic all based in England, and he knows it will be a tough match.
"Croatia are playing very well," Mata said.
"They have very good players that I know from the Premier League.
"Luka Modric is dangerous and we will have to keep a close eye on him."
Croatia opened their Euro 2012 campaign with a 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland and then came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Italy.
Spain, meanwhile, drew 1-1 with Italy and brushed aside the Irish 4-0.
The 24-year-old Mata expects his team to take three points against the Croatians, a result that would see the defending champions progress to the last eight at the top of Group C.
"We are going for the win," Mata said. "That is what we always do.
"We are in good form and looking forward to playing this third game.
"We know the fans are enthusiastic and they expect another win."
Modric, meanwhile, expects a very difficult game against Spain.
"It's going to be very tough," he said. "Both sides will want to prove their worth."
Anything but a win for Italy against Ireland in the other group game would see Croatia join Spain in the quarter-finals.
Should Croatia and Spain draw and score at least four goals between them, Italy would not be able to catch them.
But a draw is not on the minds of the Croatian players.
"We will play as though this was any other game, trying to win,"Jelavic said. "We will not make any calculations or focus on what is happening elsewhere.
"For me, Spain and Germany are the favourite sides to win the title but the time has come for one of them to be eliminated."
Meanwhile, Spain midfielder Xavi expects a very open game of football in Gdansk.
"I think it is going to be a beautiful game for the fans and for the players," the Barcelona midfielder said.
"They will have to go all out and so will we.
"We depend on ourselves to qualify and we will try to win and be first of our group.
"However, Croatia are very good, they have a fantastic team, with great individual talent.
"I don't expect an easy game."
There are fears among Italian fans that the encounter could end in a 2-2 draw, a result that would see Croatia join Spain in the next round at the expense of the Azzurri.
"Absolutely not," Xavi said. "We only know how to play attacking football so a draw would not suit us.
"We will go out determined to hold possession, to move the ball and to go forward.
"This is our style of game and the one that made us European and world champions.
"Our aim is always to go out for victory and against Croatia it will be no exception.
"We will play to get three points from the first minute until the last."
"We have the same hunger that we had in Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup," Xavi said.
"We are among the favourites and we have the possibility to make history and win another Euro title.
"But we know that only through hard work and humility will that be possible."
Fernando Torres is set to lead Spain's attack for the second consecutive game with the Chelsea striker having scored twice against Ireland.
Modric will play in support of striker Mario Mandzukic, who is the joint-top scorer of the competition with three goals.
Spain will be at full strength with midfielder Sergio Busquets having recovered from a minor foot injury.