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Morocco v Spain Preview: Atlas Lions flying the flag for Africa

Morocco are the last African team standing at this year's World Cup, and they will be looking to break new ground when they take on Spain in the Round of 16 at the Education City Stadium on Tuesday.

Walid Regragui's side have been one of the surprise packages in Qatar, as they finished top of Group F ahead of 2018 finalists Croatia and the side ranked second in the world, Belgium.

Next up for the Atlas Lions is a clash with 2010 winners Spain, who started the tournament in magnificent fashion, thrashing Costa Rica 7-0, but in the end had to rely on goal difference to edge through in Group E.

Luis Enrique will be hoping his side can rediscover their best form against Morocco, with Spain priced at 1/4 to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010, while the North Africans are 3/1 to reach that stage for the very first time.

What: Morocco v Spain
Where: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
When: 15:00, Tuesday 6th December
How to watch: ITV1
Odds: Morocco 11/2, Draw 11/4, Spain 3/5

Morocco looking to break new ground

It has been a tournament to remember for Morocco, as not only have they made it through to the knockout stages for the first time since 1986, but they have done so in style, following up a goalless draw with Croatia - where they were arguably the better side - with victories over a much-fancied Belgium and Canada.

That has extended the Atlas Lions' impressive run of form under head coach Regragui, who only took charge in August but has spearheaded a six-match unbeaten run that includes four wins and the concession of just a solitary goal.

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Morocco's impressive form actually stretches back further than Regragui's tenure, as they are unbeaten in eight matches in total, although they remain 100/1 outsiders to go all the way in Qatar.

While winning the World Cup still seems a long way away, Morocco will fancy their chances of becoming just the fourth African team to reach the quarter-finals of the competition, following in the footsteps of Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010).

The North Africans are 3/1 to qualify for the last eight and, if they do make it through, then they will also extend their unbeaten run at the World Cup finals to five matches, equalling a continent record that is currently held by Cameroon.

From seventh heaven to scraping through for Spain

Spain's World Cup campaign started in spectacular fashion, as they opened with a 7-0 victory over Costa Rica in Group E which had many people touting Enrique's side as potential champions at 8/1.

However, following that convincing victory at the Al Thumama Stadium, La Furia Roja drew with Germany before throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 against Japan in their final group fixture, a result that saw the Samurai Blue qualify ahead of them in the final standings.

It could have been even worse for Spain, as they only snuck through to the knockout stages on goal difference ahead of Germany, with the seven unanswered goals they struck against Costa Rica ultimately proving decisive.

It is now a question of which Spain will turn up against Morocco. The 2010 champions are 1/4 to qualify from the tie, while a repeat of their 7-0 victory over Costa Rica is available at an eye-watering 450/1.

Memories of 2018 still fresh

This is the second-consecutive World Cup where Morocco and Spain have clashed, as they also met in the final round of fixtures during the 2018 group stage.

Morocco were already eliminated heading into that contest after losing their opening two games, but Spain were in a battle with Portugal and Iran to qualify.

Things were not looking good for La Furia Roja, as they trailed Morocco 2-1 heading into stoppage time at the end of the match only for Iago Aspas to pop up with a late equaliser that not only ensured qualification, but also first place in the group.

Only four players involved for Spain that day are in the current squad, while there are five from Morocco's 26-man team in Qatar, including Youssef En-Nesyri, who netted that day, and is an 11/2 anytime scorer option on Tuesday.

Hakimi expected to be fit for Morocco

Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi has been one of the standout performers for Morocco in Qatar and the 24-year-old is expected to be passed fit to face Spain - the country of his birth - despite an ongoing ankle issue.

That problem forced Hakimi off during the closing stages of Morocco's final group game against Canada and he did not take a full part in training on Friday as a result.

Hakim Ziyech, Sofyan Amrabat and Sofiane Boufal also missed that session, but it appears they were just being rested with Tuesday's match in mind.

Spain have doubts over the fitness of defender Cesar Azpilicueta, who came off at half-time against Japan with a calf issue. Dani Carvajal replaced the Chelsea captain during that game and is expected to come into the XI.

Enrique handed starts to youngsters Nico Williams and Alejandro Balde against Japan, but the likes of Ferran Torres and Jordi Alba will expect to return to the team for the knockout stages.

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