Top spot in Group 2 of the UEFA Nations League A will be up for grabs when Poland welcome Portugal to Stadion Slaski on Thursday night
The popular UEFA Nations League returns in the second international break of the season, with Matchday 3 set to begin on Thursday. The marquee clash in League A will be played at Stadion Slaski in Chorzow, where Portugal take on Poland in a clash between the top two sides of Group 2.
Poland is at the dawn of a new era, with Jerzy Brzeczek taking charge, although both of the matches he has overseen have ended in a draw. The White and Reds are are currently placed second in Group 2 of the UEFA Nations League A, with the only game that they have played so far in the competition ending in a stalemate.
Portugal, on the other hand, grabbed all three points in their inaugural Group 2 clash, beating Italy 1-0 at Estadio da Luz. The Seleccao are unbeaten in the two games that they have played since being booted out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the Round of 16, with Fernando Santos looking to oversee a smooth transition to the younger generation.
The last time these two sides locked horns was at the 2016 UEFA European Championship, with Portugal edging out Poland on penalties in a quarter-final tie. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Nations League tie.
Team News & Tactics
Jerzy Brzeczek seems to have quickly zeroed in on his preferred set of players, having retained most of the squad that he had picked for the last round of international fixtures. And, his team selection in his two games in-charge thus far suggests that the 47-year-old will be looking towards combining a healthy mix of experience and youth going forward.
In particular, Brzeczek seems determined to create a solid spine comprising largely of veterans, who can guide the youngsters around them. These aforementioned experienced players include Kamil Glik, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak and captain Robert Lewandowski.
Meanwhile, the Poland boss has a healthy selection headache in the goalkeeping department, with both Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny available. Against Portugal, Fabianski could be the one to get the nod ahead of Szczesny. In the back four, Glik should be accompanied by Bartosz Bereszynski, Jan Bednarek and Arkadiusz Reca.
In midfield, Blaszczkowski and Krychowiak are certain starters. Alongside the duo, Rafal Kurzawa and Karol Linetty are likely to provide the youthful exuberance. The final decision troubling Brzeczek will be whether Lewandowski will have a strike partner upfront, or a player like Piotr Zielinski playing off him.
Against Portugal, Zielinski will likely get the nod with the Poland boss aiming to create overloads in the middle of the park. That leaves Arkadiusz Milik and the in-form Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek on the bench as impact substitutes to make the difference late in the UEFA Nations League tie.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Fabianski; Bereszynski, Glik, Bednarek, Reca; Blaszczykowski, Linetty, Krychowiak, Kurzawa; Zielinski; Lewandowski
The 2018 FIFA World Cup may have ended on a disappointing note, with Cristiano Ronaldo taking some time off to figure out his international future. But, Fernando Santos is now showing the willingness to adapt and transform his tactical game, as he looks to get the winning feeling back with the UEFA Nations League.
If last month’s games are anything to go by, the 4-4-2 has been done away with, with a more fluid 4-3-3 formation being preferred by the Portugal boss. The change in system enables Portugal to create overloads in the middle of the park while employing players who can recycle the ball quickly to knit quick attacking movements.
The implementation of the new style has elevated Ruben Neves into a key player doing the dirty work in front of defence while spraying the ball forward to quickly put the opposition under pressure. Alongside the Wolverhampton Wanderers star, Santos employs two hard working midfielders who will contribute in both the defensive and offensive aspects.
One player who fits perfectly in this criteria is the fit again Danilo Pereira, who will likely be a pivotal figure for Portugal going forward. Against Poland though, the FC Porto superstar is unlikely to be thrown into the deep end right away as he still continues building his fitness. In his stead, Pizzi and Renato Sanches could get the nod.
At the back, Ruben Dias seems to have cemented his place in the national side, with Pepe guiding the young centre-back during his teething process. The full-backs seem nailed on as well, with Joao Cancelo and Mario Rui enjoying the confidence of the Portugal head coach.
Upfront, in-form striker Andre Silva is an automatic selection, as is Bernardo Silva, who will play in a more advanced role than he does for Manchester City. The final slot will be contested between Bruma and Goncalo Guedes, with the latter likely to get the nod for the UEFA Nations League tie.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Cancelo, Pepe, Dias, Rui; Pizzi, Neves, Sanches; Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva, Guedes
- The UEFA Nations League tie will be the 12th meeting between Poland and Portugal. The Seleccao hold the slight edge in the head-to-head battle with 5 wins (D3 L3).
- The last three meetings between these two sides have finished level, including their Euro 2016 quarter-final, which Portugal eventually won on penalties.
- Poland boast a poor recent record, having managed to win just one of their last five games (D2 L2).
- Portugal are on an odd streak at the present moment, having scored precisely one goal in each of their last five games.
- Robert Lewandowski will make his 100th appearance for the Polish National Side if he features on Thursday.
Player to Watch
The player who can do no wrong at the present moment. Krzysztof Piatek has the world at his feet after a blistering start to life in Italy. Europe’s top scorer in club football presently, the 23-year-old has an astounding record of 13 goals in 8 games, and is starting to draw comparisons with his idol Robert Lewandowski.
With Lewandowski not exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment, and Arkadiusz Milik being rather profligate for the national side, the onus might just fall on Piatek in the UEFA Nations League tie. So, while he isn’t likely to start against Portugal, expect him to create a stir in the short that he will definitely be afforded on the night.
Poland 1-1 Portugal
Two sides that are perhaps on an even pedestal as far as the level of talent is concerned are set to battle it out for top spot in Group 2 of UEFA Nations League A. Poland have the experienced campaigners who usually tend to hold their own, while the youngsters seem to be taking centre stage for Portugal.
The major concern for Poland though, is the form of Robert Lewandowski, who has started the season slowly. Their inability to find the back of the net in crunch situations should also put some pressure, considering Portugal play more freely. This should be an entertaining clash, with very little separating two top class sides.
But, with the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo missing, the Seleccao do need time to adjust and emerge from the superstar’s shadows. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-1 draw, meaning Portugal will retain their spot atop Group 2, with Poland following behind in second.