Portugal will have the chance to secure a berth at the UEFA Euro 2020 when they take on Ukraine in Kiev in a Group B tie on Monday.
The games continue to come thick and fast in the international break, as teams in Europe continue their quest to qualify for next summer’s European Championships. The top two in Group B will be in action on Monday, when Ukraine play hosts to Portugal at the NSK Olimpiyskyi.
Ukraine have been on a roll at the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, having remained unbeaten after their first six fixtures of the campaign. With 16 points on the board, Andriy Shevchenko & co. lead Portugal by 5 points and are on the verge of qualifying for next summer’s event.
Portugal, on the other hand, have uncharacteristically stuttered in their qualifying campaign for the European Championships, despite being buoyed by their UEFA Nations League triumph. But, after winning each of their last three games handsomely, the defending champions have put themselves in a good position to book their place at the tournament.
The reverse fixture, played in Lisbon back in March, ended in a goalless draw and ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Andriy Shevchenko does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Portugal on Monday. With a winning combination at his disposal, the Ukraine head coach is not expected to tinker around much, if at all.
Andriy Pyatov is a certain starter in goal for Ukraine and will don the armband for the hosts against Portugal yet again. The defensive line should remain unchanged as well, with Serhiy Bolbat and Eduard Sobol being the two full-backs who will provide the width in the final third, while Serhiy Kryvtsov and Mykola Matviyenko will form the central defensive partnership.
Taras Stepanenko ought to continue reprising the role of the Anchor Man in front of defence while also having the responsibility of connecting defence with attack. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ruslan Malinovskyi, the twin-goal hero against Lithuania, will take up the advanced midfield positions in the final third.
Andriy Yarmolenko and Marlos are expected to continue as the two wide men, with the duo tasked with cutting in to create overloads in central areas. Roman Yaremchuk should return to the lineup, with Junior Moraes struggling to settle in at international level.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Pyatov; Bolbat, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko, Sobol; Stepanenko; Yarmolenko, Zinchenko, Malinovskyi, Marlos; Yaremchuk
Like Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Santos, too, has a very settled side at his disposal and will only make one or two changes to the side that beat Luxembourg last time out. The major absentee for the visitors is William Carvalho, although Danilo Pereira is a top deputy for the Real Betis midfielder.
Danilo should line up as the deepest of the three midfielders once again, with Bruno Fernandes another certain starter in the middle of the park. Joao Moutinho, though, should make way for Wolves teammate Ruben Neves, who will pull the strings in midfield for Portugal.
At the back, there is no looking past Rui Patricio between the sticks, while Pepe and Ruben Dias are the first-choice partnership at the heart of Portugal’s defence. Raphael Guerreiro picks himself as the left-back, while the in-form Nelson Semedo will start on the opposite flank.
Up ahead in attack, Santos is spoilt for choice, but is unlikely to look past the exciting triumvirate of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and Joao Felix, with Goncalo Guedes among those who miss out again.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Patricio; Semedo, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Fernandes, Danilo, Neves; Bernardo Silva, Ronaldo, Felix
- Monday will see Ukraine and Portugal lock horns for the fourth time. The honours are even as far as the head-to-head record is concerned, with Ukraine and Portugal having one win apiece so far (D1).
- Both Ukraine and Portugal are unbeaten in their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaigns. While the hosts have won five of their six games (D1), the Seleccao have managed just three victories in five outings (D2).
- Ukraine have a miserable record in games in Kiev, winning just one of their six games in the capital city (D2 L3).
- Ukraine have won their three home games in Group B of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers without conceding a goal.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is one goal away from completing 700 strikes in his career, club and country included.
Player to Watch
More often than not, when Portugal are in action, the onus is invariably on Cristiano Ronaldo to produce the goods. But, against tricky opposition such as Ukraine, Fernando Santos will need more from the support cast as well, and this is where Joao Felix comes in.
Billed as the next big thing in the game, the teenager is someone who is brimming with confidence and raring to make an impact. Still in search of his first international goal, Felix could have no bigger occasion than the game against Group B leaders Ukraine to stamp his authority and pave the way for Portugal’s qualification to the European Championships.
Ukraine 1-1 Portugal
Ukraine have been simply excellent so far in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, with their home form being even more impressive. Andriy Shevchenko’s men rarely let in goals, but they will face their biggest test yet at home against a Portugal side that has plenty of goals in it.
Cristiano Ronaldo is on the cusp of a historic occasion, while Joao Felix is someone who will be eager to make an impression. Ukraine, though, are hard to break down and are unlikely to afford their visitors many opportunities to score. The Hard Tackle predicts an evenly-contested affair that ought to end in a 1-1 draw.