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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Spain could be capable of shocking Davis Cup holders

Marin Cilic can lead Croatia to final

Spain are in with a shout of reaching the Davis Cup final
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The Davis Cup will become an 18-team season-ending tournament from 2019 onwards but for now holders France host Spain in Lille while Croatia welcome the USA to Zadar in a bid to decide the last two finalists in the current format.

Both home teams are favourites to win their semi-final ties. France are no bigger than 1-2 while Croatia, led by world number six Marin Cilic, are even shorter at just 1-4.

There's little reason to oppose 2016 finalists Croatia on clay. Cilic is the star man for Zeljko Krajan's team but Borna Coric is a handy number two while Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic are a crack doubles pair.

The US team are weakened by the absence of father-to-be John Isner and the injured Jack Sock, who has been replaced by Ryan Harrison. 

Sock's non-appearance will be particularly felt in the doubles, for which he is ranked second in the world, with Harrison instead partnering Mike Bryan on Saturday.

Cilic can be expected to win both of his matches - first against Frances Tiafoe and then probably Steve Johnson - while Coric should do his bit to help see his nation into the final.

Spain, who overcame Germany to reach this stage, look more likely to provide an upset on a hard court in northern France.

Rafael Nadal was due to play for the visitors but pulled out following the knee injury that forced him to retire during his US Open semi-final match with Juan Martin del Potro, a decision that has changed the complexion of the tie.

Spain, though, can still call on 2017 US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut who, if fit after a few weeks on the sidelines, is capable of playing a significant hand. Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez should also combine for a competent doubles team.

Yannick Noah has Lucas Pouille among his ranks but the world number 19 has been in poor form all year while the French captain has also opted to throw in the maniacal Benoit Paire for his Davis Cup debut against Carreno Busta.

Much could depend on how Paire reacts to the pressure of representing his country in front of a home crowd and there's potential for him to completely lose the plot if things fail to fall his way.

Home advantage means France are worthy favourites but 1-2 looks too short and Spain could prove decent value at the prices.

Great Britain host Uzbekistan in Glasgow in their World Group playoff (live on BBCi, from 1pm Friday). Andy Murray is absent so Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie and Jay Clarke are on hand for singles duty while doubles specialists Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray complete the British team.

Spain to win tie
1pt 21-10 188Bet

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Rafael Nadal was due to play for the visitors but pulled out following the knee injury that forced him to retire during his US Open semi-final match
E.W. Terms
Sky bet