Portugal will be aiming to take the battle for top spot in Group B to the final round when they visit Estadi Nacional to take on Andorra on Saturday.
The World Cup qualifiers are in the final stretch as the qualification picture starts getting clearer with each passing round. In Group B, Portugal play the penultimate round of their qualification campaign in the group stage as they visit Estadi Nacional to face Andorra on Saturday.
The hosts are second from bottom in Group B, with Latvia being the only side below them – a point adrift. Koldo Alvarez’s men come into the match after back-to-back defeats in their two games in September, which left them with a perilous chance of landing the wooden spoon in the group.
Portugal, on the other hand, have been the free scorers in Group B following their campaign opening loss to Switzerland. The Seleccao have won each of their games since the result, but have continued to lie behind the Swiss due to the table toppers’ perfect record.
The reverse fixture, twelve months ago, ended in a dominating 6-0 win for Portugal, who saw captain Cristiano Ronaldo score four goals to inspire the home success. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Koldo Alvarez does not have any major injury concerns heading into the last two rounds of their qualifying campaign, and the Andorra boss has retained the core of his first-team squad for the latest set of fixtures.
Alvarez, though, will be without the services of Marc Pujol for the visit of Portugal, with the veteran midfielder suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Gabi Riera is expected to replace Pujol in the starting eleven, to partner teenage striker Alex Martinez up front.
The onus on Saturday, though, will be on Max Llovera and captain Ildefons Lima to hold the fort at the heart of defence to keep the menacing Portugal attack at bay and grab a shock result from the match. But, Josep Gomes is likely to be peppered by a barrage of shots, and he will have to produce a performance of a lifetime to keep a clean sheet.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Gomes; Jordi Rubio, Lima, Llovera, Jesus Rubio; Garcia, Rebes, Vieira, San Nicolas; Riera, Martinez
There are no fresh injury concerns surrounding Fernando Santos’ side either, who has called up a major chunk of his key men for the last two Group B outings. Raphael Guerreiro remains the only big absentee due to an ankle injury that he picked up during the Confederations Cup.
In his absence, Eliseu should continue on the left side of defence, having excelled in all of his recent outings for the national side. But, the Portugal boss is expected to make several rotations on Saturday to ensure that his key men remain fit for the potential winner-takes-all clash against Switzerland.
With that in mind, the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Luis Neto and Goncalo Guedes are all likely to get a rare start for the national side on Saturday. But, captain Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to feature too, and the goalscoring burden will rest on his shoulders on the night.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Rui Patricio; Semedo, Neto, Alves, Eliseu; Martins, Fernandes, Danilo, Guedes; Andre Silva, Ronaldo
- Portugal have prevailed in each of their four previous meetings with Andorra, outscoring the hosts by 20 to one.
- Portugal have averaged an astounding four goals per game since their campaign opening defeat to Switzerland.
- Andorra will be looking to end a three-game goalscoring drought on Saturday, having failed to find the back of the net in their last three matches.
- Cristiano Ronaldo will be aiming to reclaim the European qualifiers goalscoring record from Robert Lewandowski. A brace will see the Portugal captain claim the outright record, with 16 goals.
- Andorra have been solid customers at home, having conceded just three goals in four games thus far.
Player To Watch
Rated as the next big thing in Portuguese football, Andre Silva has made a strong start to his international career, combining brilliantly with Cristiano Ronaldo up front. But, after a slow start in Serie A, the player is not coming into the last two rounds of World Cup qualifiers with a lot of form.
The match against the minnows, though, gives the 21-year-old the chance to rediscover his goalscoring touch. A strong performance can also help set up the enticing winner-takes-all clash against Switzerland on Tuesday, and Silva will hope to lead his side to a comfortable win on Saturday.
Andorra 0-4 Portugal
Just two rounds of fixtures remain in the group stage of the European leg of the World Cup qualifiers, and Group B remains evenly poised between Switzerland and Portugal. The Seleccao cannot afford any slip ups at this point, and the game against Andorra, therefore, couldn’t have come at a better time.
The minnows have often looked listless against the best sides in the world, and the match on Saturday is likely to be more of the same. Fernando Santos & co. should win this one easily, with Cristiano Ronaldo claiming the qualifying scoring record once again.