European champions Portugal will travel to Latvia for their latest Group B fixture looking for a win to keep pace with their group leaders Switzerland.
Portugal will be determined to turn this fixture into a victory as they travel to Latvia for their World Cup qualifier. They are in blistering form after beating Cyprus 4-0 in a friendly match on Saturday and have returned to winning ways after a nail-biting 3-2 home defeat to Sweden in their previous friendly.
The Portuguese will need to win this to maintain pressure on Switzerland or face the prospect of getting relegated into the World Cup play-offs which will be embarrassing for a team that was crowned the European champions last year.
Latvia, on the other hand, have been subjected to defeat in their last five international matches, and the last time they won was against Andorra in their opening qualifier back in September. They will come into this game after a 5-0 thrashing in their match against Georgia.
In fact, the 4-1 defeat in their reverse fixture against Portugal back in November is the only time they scored in a game off late.
Team News and Tactics
Portugal’s leading goalscorer and captain Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to return to the squad after enjoying a magnificent triumph as Real Madrid successfully defended the Champions League trophy. Ronaldo scored twice in that game and will be in good form for his country.
However, Portugal’s Euro 2016 hero Eder will not play this game and talented teenager Renato Sanches will also sit this one out.
Manchester City’s new winger Bernardo Silva will be looking to maintain his place in the team. The fact that Ronaldo will be a part of this match could mean that Nani will have to step down and remain on the bench.
Having a player like Ronaldo leading the attack can be beneficial for any squad and against a seemingly struggling side like Latvia, Portugal will have the upper hand. A win is needed for them to avoid letting Switzerland get too ahead and they will be looking to stick to the basics and do their job against Latvia.
They have won three of their last four matches by four or more goals, which is an excellent record to have and the Portuguese will look to put up a similar show against Latvia by raking in goals to turn up the pressure on the hosts.
Predicted lineup (4-4-2): Rui Patricio, Soares, Neto, Fonte, Eliseu, Moutinho, Carvalho, Pereira, Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva, Ronaldo
Artus Lazdins was part of the squad that endured a crushing defeat against Georgia in Latvia’s last international match, and is likely to sit out for this one. Latvia will make some changes to provide a resistance for Portugal’s strong attack force. Nikita Kolesovs, who plays as a defender for Ventspils, is expected to debut for the country.
Latvia’s veteran defender and captain Kaspars Gorkss will have his work cut out for him and will have to lead to combat an in-form Portugal front line which can be a daunting task considering their shoddy defence in previous matches.
They will be aware of the fact that Portugal are the clear favourites to win this game but they will have the home advantage and can try to push for a draw at the very least. Working on strengthening their defence will be top priority and a key factor in determining the course of the match.
Latvia will be hoping to reign in some power from when they beat Andorra and they are a team under construction, so they can set Portugal up for a shock upset if they play their cards right.
Predicted lineup (4-5-1): Vanins, Freimanis, Jagodinskis, Gorkss, Solovjovs, Visnakovs, Kamess, Laizans, Kluskins, Ikaunieks, Sabala
- Portugal have won all five of their previous fixtures against Latvia
- Latvia are in the fifth position of the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Europe group B table while Portugal are second.
- Portugal won 4-1 when the sides met earlier in the group.
- Latvia have scored just 0.4 goals per game in this group so far while Portugal have scored four or more goals in five of their eight internationals since winning Euro 2016.
Latvia 0 – 3 Portugal
European champions Portugal may have failed to notch up a victory in Switzerland and are trailing the group leaders, but they are still expected to record a convincing win against Latvia. With Ronaldo leading from the front, they are likely to scorea barrage of goals.
Latvia’s goal-scoring prowess rests upon the hands on Sabala but he can be restricted by the Portuguese defence.
Portugal also recorded a routine win over Cyprus in a friendly over the weekend despite the absence of Ronaldo, which shows that they are a strong attack regardless and are likely to pick up all three points from this qualifier match.