Portugal start their UEFA Euro 2020 qualification campaign against Ukraine as the reigning champions hope to be the early pace setters in Group B.

Portugal have been putting in strong displays in recent years, and their performances were rewarded with a triumph at the last edition of the European Championships held in France. The Seleccao have maintained their form since and are already considered one of the front-runners for glory in the next championships.

Their resolve was tested during the UEFA Nations League, and Portugal did not disappoint. The team won their group and that at least guarantees them a place in the playoffs should they fail in their Group B endeavours. More importantly, all eyes will be on Portugal’s star men who have been performing admirably for their respective clubs.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernando Silva will have the spotlight ready for them, with the Juventus star, in particular, putting up ageless displays and back from his international hiatus. But can Ronaldo & co. give Portugal the perfect start in their qualifying group?

Their opponents, Ukraine have been in decent form as well. Pitted against Slovakia and Czech Republic in their UEFA Nations League group, the Ukrainians did well to earn promotion to League A. Andriy Shevchenko and his team will, however, realise that the challenges ahead in the Euro qualifiers will be their next major hurdle, starting with Portugal.

Ukraine will be hopeful of a top two finish in this group, considering their form in the last year as well as the opponents in their group apart from Portugal. If Shevchenko’s men perform at their highest level and try to earn a result against Portugal, they will feel confident about their chances as the group progresses.

Team News & Tactics

Portugal

Fernando Santos would be a relieved man knowing that he can again count on the returning Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite the Juventus superstar’s absence from the national side since the World Cup, Santos’ side have performed well. But, the talisman’s return will be a boost, and he should slot straight into the starting lineup.

There are some new faces in the Portuguese squad for the qualifiers. Benfica wonderkid Joao Felix could make his debut for the national side, while there are places in the squad for Wolves forward Diogo Jota and SC Braga ace Dyego Sousa. However, Sporting Lisbon star Bruno Fernandes has withdrawn from the squad through injury.

One more familiar face who will start is Bernando Silva, who is expected to play on the right side of attack for Portugal despite excelling in a central midfield role for his club Manchester City. Additionally, there could be a place from the start for Mario Rui who played most Nations League games at left-back, meaning regular incumbent Raphael Guerreiro could move into a more advanced position.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Patricio; Cancelo, Pepe, Dias, Rui; Bernardo Silva, Carvalho, Pizzi, Guerreiro; Andre Silva, Ronaldo

Ukraine

Andriy Shevchenko added Brazilian-born Junior Moraes to his squad the day after the 31-year old was granted a Ukrainian passport. The Shakhtar Donetsk striker could be set for his international debut against Portugal. Moraes has been in top form, scoring 16 goals in the Ukrainian league and topping the scoring charts. He will thus, also become the third Brazilian-born player to be part of the Ukraine national side.

Shevchenko is set to name an experienced and familiar squad for the Portugal game. He will shape his formation keeping four players at the back and a five-man midfield. There could be some changes to personnel in the side; Vitaliy Mykolenko will push for a start at left-back and replace Mykola Matvylenko, who started every game for Ukraine during the Nations League.

On the other hand, there is Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has been putting in impressive performances for Manchester City and he could start in a more advanced position on the left side. Viktor Tsygankov, who has also been in solid form should begin on the right side Ukraine’s attack.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Pyatov; Karavaev, Burda, Krivtsov, Mykolenko; Tsygankov, Marlos, Stepanenko, Malinovskiy, Zinchenko; Moraes

Key Stats

  • Portugal and Ukraine last played each other during the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification period. Portugal and Ukraine split the series, when both sides earned one victory and one loss.
  • Portugal won their group in the UEFA Nations League – League A Group 1, securing two victories and two draws.
  • Ukraine won their group in the UEFA Nations League – League B Group 2, recording three victories and one loss.
  • Having won their respective groups, both sides may qualify for Euro 2020 via the UEFA Nations League playoffs.
  • If Portugal are to qualify and then retain the European title, they will become only the second team to do so after Spain.

Player to Watch

Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva is on the path to becoming Portugal's most important players. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Bernardo Silva is on the path to becoming Portugal’s most important players. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

The Manchester City star has been in superb form in the last two seasons for his club and has been equally putting in the performances at international level as well. Silva has been making his mark in a midfield three under Pep Guardiola, but for Portugal, he could play up front, where his real talents of goalscoring and chance creation could be seen.

Cristiano Ronaldo might be the superstar in the Portugal side, but it is Silva whose growing reputation will see him take on the mantle whenever the Juventus star steps down. For now, in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, Silva’s presence is equally important to that of Ronaldo’s, and this is the time and stage for him to set the mark in the national side.

Prediction

Portugal 3-1 Ukraine

Andriy Shevchenko’s side have the right players at the moment, and their UEFA Nations League campaign showed just that. In the Euro Qualifiers, however, they face Portugal, who are one, the favourites to top their group, and secondly, have more than enough quality in them to hurt Ukraine.

To go with a prediction, we reckon it would be the hosts who would come out on top as they have the right players to score plenty of goals, with their club records this season attesting to that. Ukraine do have players who could hurt the Portuguese defence, but at home, Portugal will be looking to take all three points to set a positive tone to their qualifying campaign.

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