World Cup - Key battle: Paulinho vs Luka Modric - Spurs stars past and present face off

Luka Modric Croatia

Tonight's World Cup curtain raiser will see hosts Brazil play Croatia and a key battle in the middle of the park could influence the outcome of the game, featuring a Tottenham Hotspur star past and present.

Brazil come into the tournament as favourites and the host nation has never lost the opening game of a World Cup, but Croatia will hope to spoil the party tonight.

A key battle in midfield could have a major influence on the game as Brazil's Paulinho and Croatia's star man Luka Modric will go head-to-head.

The former Tottenham and now Real Madrid man is the key player for the Croatians and his partnership with Ivan Rakitic in the heart of midfield will cause problems.

Current Spurs midfielder Paulinho will face up against the 28-year-old in what could be a pivotal battle, but the Croatian outperformed the Brazilian in several key areas last season.

  TeamPosAppsGoalsGoal AssistBig Chance Created / appsAccurate Pass / appsWon Tackle / appsInterception / appsMins
Paulinho Spurs MF 30 6 2 0.70 35.80 1.73 1.07 2,381
Luka Modric Real Madrid MF 34 1 6 1.47 51.85 1.56 1.35 2,644

Modric, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid, was far better than Paulinho when in possession and created more than twice the amount of chances for teammates per game.

Paulinho did outperform Modric by scoring five more goals, and the 25-year-old also won more tackles per game but the statistics suggest that he will have his work cut out in tonight's highly anticipated clash.

Croatia are seen as underdogs but if Modric can get the better of Paulinho and pull the strings from midfield, they will have a great chance of getting something out of the game.

Chelsea fans should also enjoy watching the two face up against each other as the Blues have been linked with moves for both this summer.

Modric is undoubtedly more important to his sides chances and if Paulinho fails to prevent him from controlling the tempo of the game in tonights match, there could be an upset on the cards.

Who will come out on top in the midfield battle?

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