Estadio EFAPEL, Coimbra
15th October, 22:30 GMT
Portugal host minnows Luxembourg in the last group round of qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Portuguese are second in Group F and have very slim chances of bagging top spot in the group. Portugal will need to qualify through the play offs if they remain second in the group after Tuesday’s match. Luxembourg currently lie bottom of the group and are playing for pride. Fourth place is the highest they can finish in the group if other results go their way in addition to a win in Coimbra.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Portugal head into this game looking average on form, having won only two of their last five internationals. Their last game was a draw with Israel in their penultimate World Cup qualifier, with a late error from Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio gifting a goal to Eden Ben Basat of Israel. Their biggest win in the last five matches has been the 4-2 defeat of Northern Ireland in September. Since then they have lost to Brazil in a friendly in addition to dropping points against the Israelis.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento will be hoping the Portuguese can rally and win the match at home against the minnows of their group resoundingly and then hope Russia lose to Azerbaijan so that Portugal overtake the Russians on goal difference and finish top of Group F. This scenario looks highly unlikely however, and Bento could be preparing for the playoffs even before this match.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo will be missing for the Portuguese after the Real Madrid man picked up a yellow card for dissent against Israel. The man who scored when Portugal beat Luxembourg in the reverse fixture, denied having got himself booked on purpose so that he would be without a booking as Portugal enter the knockout playoff stage later. Also missing would be Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate Pepe. The defender also picked up a yellow card and is suspended for the visit from Luxembourg.
Bento, who refused to point fingers at Rui Patricio following his gaffe against Israel will be hoping for a better showing against Luxembourg. Minus Ronaldo, the Portuguese lack bite and will have to rely on Nani and Helder Postiga in the goals department. Vierinha is set to complete Portugal’s attack trident in Ronaldo’s absence. At the back, Ricardo Costa could be handed a start in Pepe’s absence in the heart of Portugal’s defence where the Valencia centre half’s experience will come in handy. Nelson Oliveira could make an appearance from the bench if Bento feels things aren’t going his side’s way and needs an impact on the game.
Probable Starting Line Up: Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Costa, Bruno Alves, Coentrao; Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho; Nani, Helder Postiga, Vierinha
Luxembourg have also picked up two wins from their last five, beating Northern Ireland and Lithuania. They also took a shock lead against the Portuguese in the reverse fixture, before losing the game 1-2 eventually. However, Paulo Bento’s men are favourites to beat Luxembourg on Tuesday. The minnows lost to group leaders Russia 0-4 at home and would be looking to avoid defeat by that high a margin against the talented Portuguese.
With pride to play for, avoiding finishing last in Group F would be Luxembourg’s motive. Daniel da Mota gave them a shock lead in the reverse fixture and will be hoping to be a thorn in the Portuguese flesh once again, even so in the absence of centre back Pepe. Luxembourg have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the match and would relish playing with the tag of underdogs, hoping to pull off an upset over the much more fancied Portugal side.
Probable Starting Line Up: Joubert; Laterza, Jans, Phillips, Janisch; Turpel, Gerson, Mutsch, da Mota; Bensi, Luisi
Player to watch out for
With Cristiano Ronaldo unavailable for the game, Nani must step up and be counted. Portugal will look to him and Helder Postiga to get them the goals they need to ensure they win the match with ease. Nani has currently enjoyed a rich streak of confidence from Manchester United manager David Moyes and he will hope it spurs him on to perform at a high level that is expected of him. Nani is excellent at crossing the ball and will look to pick out Postiga from open play, and big centre halves Bruno Alves and Ricardo Costa from set pieces and utilize Portugal’s strengths to overcome the minnows in a match where his team are expected to win.
Blast from the Past
We leave you with memories of the reverse fixture between the two teams which ended in a 2-1 win for Portugal.