Reigning European champions Portugal will be looking for their first win of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, when they take on Serbia on Saturday night.
After winning the UEFA Nations League in the summer, Portugal will be searching for their first victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifers, when they face off against Serbia at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade this weekend.
Portugal haven’t had the best of starts to their qualifying campaign for the European Championships. The Seleccao have drawn both their Group B fixtures against Ukraine (0-0) and Serbia (1-1) in March earlier this year. With just two points on board, they find themselves in the fourth place in the group standings, eight points off of leaders Ukraine.
However, Fernando Santos’ men will be buoyed by their UEFA Nations League triumph in June. The UEFA Euro 2016 winners defeated Switzerland in the semi-final, before narrowly edging past Netherlands in the final to lift the trophy. The Seleccao will be hoping to carry forward that momentum and notch up their first win this Saturday.
Serbia’s start to the qualifiers has also been a bit rocky. Having kicked off the campaign with a 1–1 draw against Portugal, the Eagles succumbed to a heavy 5-0 defeat to Ukraine. While they did bounce back with a 4-1 win against Lithuania, Mladen Krstajic was sacked as the manager, with Ljubisa Tumbakovic getting appointed as his replacement.
Serbia are currently third in Group B with four points from four matches. In what will be their first game under Tumbakovic, the Eagles will want to get at least one point from the fixture that will push them to the second spot in the standings.
Team News & Tactics
Luka Milivojevic is back in the Serbian squad, following an international exile under former coach Krstajic after the World Cup last year. Another player who was frozen out under the previous manager, Matija Nastasic, is also back in the setup and has trained with the team, having recovered from an infection.
Manager Tumbakovic usually sets his teams up in 4-2-3-1 formation and is likely to stick with the same setup in his first game in charge of Serbia. 27-year-old Marko Dmitrovic should get the nod in goal ahead of Predrag Rajkovic and uncapped goalkeeper Boris Radunovic.
35-year-old veteran Antonio Rukavina is likely to feature at right-back ahead of Mako Gobeljic, whereas captain Aleksandar Kolarov should start on the opposite side of the backline. Uros Spajic and and Nikola Milenkovic ought to form the partnership at the heart of the defence.
The manager is likely to set his team with a defensive outlook against Portugal, meaning the Premier League duo of Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic are likely to start in the midfield double pivot for the hosts on Saturday. The No. 10 slot should in all likelihood be occupied by Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Dusan Tadic and Filip Kostic, who have made flying starts to the new season for their clubs Ajax and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively, will provide the threat from the wide areas. Aleksandar Mitrovic should start ahead of Luka Jovic as the lone striker owing to his superior form at club level this term.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Dmitrovic; Rukavina, Milenkovic, Spajic, Kolarov; Milivojevic, Matic; Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, Kostic; Mitrovic
There is no place in the squad for midfielder Andre Gomes, while the likes of Andre Silva, Joao Mario and Cedric Soares also don’t make the cut. Veteran defender Pepe is injured and uncapped starlet Ferro has been called up as his replacement. Jose Sa, Diogo Jota and Daniel Podence are the other uncapped players in the squad.
Manager Fernando Santos is expected to set his team out in a 4-4-2 formation in Belgrade on Saturday, in order to pair up star man and captain Cristiano Ronaldo with teenage sensation Joao Felix, who has made a terrific start to the season with Atletico Madrid, at the top of the attack.
Experienced custodian Rui Patricio should line up between the sticks. Nelson Semedo should edge out Joao Cancelo for the right-back slot. Raphael Guerreiro hasn’t played a great deal this season, but should keep his spot in the team at left-back ahead of Mario Rui. In Pepe’s absence, Jose Fonte is set to partner Ruben Dias at the centre of the four-man defence.
Manchester City star Bernardo Silva is a guaranteed starter on the right side of the midfield four while Bruno Fernandes could slot in on the left flank, having played in that position for the national team in the past. The manager has plenty of quality options to choose from the central midfield, but Wolves’ star Ruben Neves is likely to start alongside the energetic William Carvalho.
With the likes of Rafa Silva, Goncalo Guedes and Jota, the Seleccao will have quality in abundance on the bench to change the course of the game should things not start well for them on Saturday.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Patricio; Semedo, Fonte, Dias, Guerreiro; Bernardo Silva, Carvalho, Neves, Fernandes; Felix, Ronaldo
- Saturday’s match in Belgrade will be the sixth meeting between the two nations. Portugal have never lost to Serbia in their five previous encounters, winning two while three have ended in draws.
- In their five meetings till date, neither team has been able to keep a clean sheet. Portugal have scored seven goals in the five fixtures, while Serbia have found the net on five occasions.
- Since their Round of 16 exit in the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the hands of Uruguay, Portugal haven’t lost even one of their ten games, winning and drawing five matches apiece.
- The 5-0 defeat to Ukraine in June is Serbia’s only defeat in their ten matches since their group stage exit from the World Cup in Russia. The Eagles have won four matches in that period.
- Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be making 50th international appearance should he take the field against Portugal in Belgrade. The 24-year-old has scored 25 goals in his 49 matches so far.
Player to Watch
The 19-year-old attacker has been making all the right noises over the past year. Having enjoyed a sensational breakthrough campaign with Benfica, Joao Felix earned a big money move worth €120 million to La Liga heavyweights Atletico Madrid and has made an impressive start to life in Spain, scoring and assisting one goal apiece in 3 league games, while helping them to the top of the table.
Clearly the future of the Portugal national team, the teenager made his international debut in the UEFA Nations League semi-final against Switzerland, starting alongside the legend Cristiano Ronaldo. Felix is likely to partner the veteran forward once again on Saturday and will be hoping to get off the mark for the Seleccao while forming a successful partnership with Ronaldo.
Serbia 1-2 Portugal
Both Serbia and Portugal have had difficult starts to their respective qualifying campaigns and will be aiming to correct their course by notching up a victory in Belgrade this weekend.
The hosts though, will be embarking on a new journey under new manager Ljubisa Tumbakovic and are likely to take time to adapt to his ways and methods. Portugal, on the other hand, will be in high spirits following their Nations League triumph last time they were in action and will be hoping to draw confidence from that result.
With Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line and the form that the supporting cast of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix have been in, the reigning European champions should pick up their first win of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on Saturday night.