The Netherlands have a do-or-die situation ahead of them, following their 4-0 drubbing by France, as they host Bulgaria on Sunday.

The Netherlands’ qualifying struggles continued midweek when they were hammered 4-0 by France. They now face the prospect of elimination as they host Bulgaria in Amsterdam, even as they find themselves sitting below their guests after Bulgaria moved into third place following a surprise 3-2 win over Sweden.

As far as the visitors are concerned, the Bulgaria national team have been deprived of high-profile players ever since Dimitar Berbatov and Stiliyan Petrov retired from international football, but the current generation appear to be doing a lot better than what most people would have predicted.

In their previous game, Bulgaria managed to grab an amazing victory. Sweden was a pretty tough opponent for a team which raked seven losses in a row. However, against the Scandinavians, Bulgaria scored a couple of goals and took their opponents by complete surprise as they amassed a shock victory.

The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides ahead of the match.

Team News & Tactics

Netherlands

Kevin Strootman will miss the game due to a suspension – the Roma midfielder picked up a red card following two bookable offences during the defeat against France. Meanwhile, Robin van Persie could come in for Vincent Janssen. Regardless, Dick Advocaat will have some very tough choices to make as to who plays and who sits.

After failing to make it to the Euro 2016 finals, the Dutchmen could easily miss out on the World Cup in Russia as well, which could be a disaster. The experienced manager was always going to be under pressure after replacing Danny Blind at the helm, even more so since he couldn’t bring the much needed improvement.

Victories over Morocco, Ivory Coast and Luxembourg hinted better times might be ahead, but then came the 4-0 loss to France that all but ended the team’s qualifying hopes. However, Netherlands will hope to put up a better fight against Bulgaria at home, and possibly give the fans a show to make up for the devastating defeat against France.

It’s going to be a tough slog in this match, and experienced heads will be needed. Robin van Persie might be up against it at his age, but considering past experiences, the forward is likely to come through in a big, tangible way. In fact, he has the calibre to still be a key player for the squad and get them ahead in a game as crucial as this one.

Predicted lineup (4-3-3): Cillessen, Veltman, de Vrij, Hoedt, Martins Indi, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Vilhena, Robben, Depay, van Persie

Bulgaria

At present, there are no worries for the visitors. Petar Hubchev needs another huge result from this match, and he will have a full team to pick from in order to try and grab it. This can also go on to provide them with a boost since this will be the same team that won against Sweden.

After beating Sweden in a 5-goal thriller, Bulgaria are bound to be full of confidence ahead of their trip to the Netherlands. Placed in the same group with France, Sweden and Netherlands, the Lions were not really given any chances to qualify for the tournament finals, but with just three games to go, they are in a good position.

Experienced midfield operator Stanislav Manolev will prove to be vital for Bulgaria. After his opening goal against Sweden, the tone was set for them to take victory, and the team splendidly did so. In fact, it was his play in the midfield that created many chances, and the CSKA Sofia man will be vital in doing so in Amsterdam as well.

However, Petar Hubchev should work more with his defensive line since they have allowed too many goals. Three goals conceded per match when playing away from home are not giving hope to their fans that they can get away undefeated from Amsterdam.

Predicted lineup (4-5-1): Iliev, Popov, Bozhikov, Chorbadzhiyski, Zanev, Kostadinov, Slavchev, Manolev, Chochev, I. Popov, Milanov

Key Stats

  • The Netherlands have a losing record against Bulgaria with W4 D2 L5.
  • The Netherlands have lost the last two games against Bulgaria.
  • Most recently on March 25, 2017, in what ended up being a 3-0 defeat for Oranje.
  • With win ratios of 50% from their last six matches both nations head into this game level in the form guide.
  • The last Dutch victory dates back to 2007.

Prediction

Netherlands 2 – 1 Bulgaria

The Netherlands are obviously the team that has a bit more to offer in terms of raw quality. Currently though, it is obvious they have some problems to deal with. The Bulgarian team on the other side may be short in some areas without names from big European competitions but they showed a good team performance and lots of determination to deny Sweden last round.

That’s one fairly even affair which promises to have some goals as both sides are looking error prone at the back. The stakes will be a little higher for the Dutchmen since this will be their final chance to try and rekindle their qualifying hopes and they have no choice but to attack from the off.

Bulgaria, on the other hand, could also profit a great deal from winning at Amsterdam Arena and one can definitely expect to see an enthralling encounter on Sunday. The Hard Tackle predicts a closely-contested victory for Netherlands over Bulgaria.

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