Partizan Stadium, Belgrade
Sunday 11th October 2015, 1600 GMT
Having already qualified for next summer’s tournament in France, Portugal manager Fernando Santos is likely to give his star names a rest, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Carvalho and JoA?o Moutinho
Portugal and Serbia have had very contrasting qualifying campaigns for the 2016 EURO Championships, and the game on Sunday is a dead rubber for both teams for the opposite reasons. Fernando Santos’ men have already qualified for the tournament and are guaranteed top spot, while Serbia have no chance of making it to France and will play for nothing but their pride.
However, ending the campaign on a high will mean a lot to a Serbian team that has endured a horrible qualification campaign; shock defeats and points lost due to crowd trouble have left Radovan urA?i ‘s men with just 4 points from 7 games. They will have to do it without captain Branislav Ivanovi however, with the Chelsea FC defender picking up a hamstring injury. Blues’ midfielder Nemanja Mati is likely to miss the game for a similar injury.
Sunday’s game will also be an opportunity for Santos to test some of his younger players against a very strong team in Serbia, in an environment that is sure to be hostile towards the away team. Swansea striker der could get a start, as also FC Porto’s Andr Andr , who scored against Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League.
Team News and Tactics
Radovan urA?i will be without two of his biggest names in Chelsea FC duo Branislav Ivanovi and Nemanja Mati for Sunday’s meeting with Portugal, after both picked up hamstring injuries in their late 2-0 win against Albania. Newcastle United’s fiery front-man Aleksandar Mitrovi could start again up front for the Eagles.
Serbia will likely play a 4-2-3-1 formation, with BeAYiktaAY defender DuA?ko ToA?i replacing Ivanovi at centre-back, and Benfica central midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa coming in for Mati . Mitrovi is likely to line up ahead of an extremely promising attacking midfield triumvirate consisting Southampton star DuA?an Tadi as well as AS Roma’s Adem Ljaji and CSKA Moscow trickster Zoran ToA?i .
Portugal haven’t been scoring many goals in their qualification campaign, and the likely absence of captain Ronaldo will boost Serbia. However, marauding Manchester City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov will have to be wary of the threat of AS Monaco youngster Bernardo Silva, who has been earmarked as a potential star following his performances in Portugal’s U21 European Championship campaign as well as his displays in Ligue 1.
Serbia’s attack is formidable in its own right, however, and the likes of Tadi , Ljaji and ToA?i will try and take advantage of a depleted Portugal defence. The left flank of Kolarov and Tadi will be particularly dangerous, and the attacker’s club team-mate C dric Soares will have his task cut out at right-back to try and contain the Serbian pair and prevent them from putting in crosses for Mitrovi .
Possible starting line-up: Stojkovi ; Tomovi , D.ToA?i , S. Mitrovi , Kolarov; Milivojevi , Fejsa; Z.ToA?i , Ljaji , Tadi ; A.Mitrovi
Fernando Santos is in the privileged position of being able to rest some of his senior players with qualification already wrapped up for the Selec A?o, with Real Madrid superstar and team captain Cristiano Ronaldo unlikely to be risked in the dead rubber. AS Monaco midfielder JoA?o Moutinho is also likely to be rested, while club team-mates FA?bio CoentrA?o (injured) and Ricardo Carvalho (rested) are also unlikely to feature.
The forced defensive reshuffle could see Zenit St. Petersburg centre-back Lu s Neto coming in for Carvalho, with Benfica left wing-back Eliseu replacing CoentrA?o. Meanwhile, Santos is spoilt for choice in midfield, and can choose from experienced defensive midfielder Miguel Veloso, FC Porto midfielder Andr Andr as well as 22-year-old Sporting CP centre-mid JoA?o MA?rio. JoA?o MA?rio is one of several promising youngsters in the squad, with Bernardo Silva and young Benfica right-back N lson Sedemo also being tracked by some of Europe’s top clubs.
Portugal’s 4-5-1 formation requires two quality wide players, and one of those is likely to be 21-year-old Silva. The other could either be Nani or former Chelsea FC and Inter Milan winger Ricardo Quaresma. If Santos is feeling particularly adventurous, he could opt for a 4-2-3-1 and also play Zenit attacker Danny in central attacking midfield.
Swansea City striker der is yet to find his feet in the Premier League, but will be hoping for game time with his national team if Ronaldo is rested, as is widely expected. Portugal have nothing to lose going into this game, and also they haven’t scored many goals in the qualification campaign, the relative lack of pressure for both sides could make for an interesting game.
Possible starting line-up: Rui Patr cio; C dric, Neto, Bruno Alves, Eliseu; Bernardo Silva, Andr Andr , Danilo Pereira, JoA?o MA?rio, Nani; der
- Group leaders Portugal completed their sixth win in a row from seven matches with a 1-0 victory over Denmark, after losing their first match at home to Albania.
- Portugal are yet to win a game in the group by a margin of more than one goal.
- Serbia have recovered from their poor start, and have won each of their last group stage games by a margin of 2 goals.
- The Serbians were one of two teams (Croatia) to have points deducted for off-the-pitch issues.
- Portugal are one of 8 teams to have qualified for the 2016 EUROs in France next summer.
Player to watch
The 21-year-old has been tipped for great things, and his performances for club and country so far have shown that he is beginning to come of age. Silva already has 2 goals in Ligue 1 this season from 5 starts from his position in the centre or the right of the attacking midfield three.
The left-footed trickster has the ability to drift inside and thread a ball through to runners in front of him, as well as the ability to dribble at defenders and take them on one-on-one. Coming up against a make-shift Portugal Serbian defence might just give him the opportunity to showcase his full range of skills.
Serbia 2 – 1 Portugal
The Serbians will be high on adrenaline after their last gasp victory against Albania in an extremely hostile atmosphere — it was the reverse fixture that had to be forfeited due to crowd trouble, costing Serbia three points — and will be looking to end a disastrous campaign on a positive note.
In front of what is sure to be a raucous home support, urA?i ‘s men will likely edge the Portuguese, who will be without several key players and ostensibly without the same motivation or hunger having already qualified.
Blast from the past