Netherlands will be aiming to take a step closer to booking a place at the FIFA World Cup 2022 when they face Montenegro in a Group G Qualifier this weekend.

Netherlands will be hoping to strengthen their chances of sealing their berth for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar when they lock horns with Montenegro at the Podgorica City Stadium on Saturday night in a Group G encounter.

Following their Round-of-16 exit at the UEFA Euro 2020, Netherlands have recovered quite well under Louis van Gaal, who took over the reins of the national team for the third time in his managerial career. The Oranje have gone five games unbeaten in a row, winning four on the bounce, which has sent them at the top of the group.

After they beat Gibraltar 6-0 last time out, Netherlands have opened up a two-point lead over second-placed Norway, who they will play in their final encounter next week. So, a victory here will be crucial for van Gaal & co. if they wish to be in control of their fortunes with regard to the qualification for the World Cup.

Montenegro, meanwhile, are fourth in the group, six points off of Norway in second, meaning a playoff spot is also very much ruled out for Miodrag Radulovic’s side as things stand. The Brave Falcons have held their own against opponents like Turkey and Gibraltar in recent months, but one of their two losses in the last five games came against Netherlands while the other was against Norway in their most recent fixture.

Playing a big nation in front of their home crowd, the Montenegrin players will be charged up to put on a good show and maybe even pull off a major upset that will dent the Dutch national team’s hopes of finishing top of the group. Ahead of this fascinating encounter coming our way from Podgorica, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Montenegro

Montenegro haven’t had any late injury issues in their squad ahead of the big game on Saturday. The only regular missing out for the home team against Netherlands will be Marko Vesovic, who is suspended. Miodrag Radulovic will likely set his team up in a 4-4-2 with two blocks of four sitting deep, denying spaces to the opponents and guarding the goalkeeper, Milan Mijatovic.

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Marko Vukcevic will slot in at right-back for the Brave Falcons while Risto Radunovic takes up the opposite flank. Both will stay tight and compact to the centre-back pairing of Igor Vujacic and Zarko Tomasevic, who will have their task cut out against a dangerous Memphis Depay.

Further protection to the backline will be provided by the midfield double-pivot of Marko Jankovic and Nebojsa Kosovic. They will largely sit behind the ball and look to cut out the passing lanes for the visiting side. The creative onus will, thus, largely fall on the wide players, Adam Marusic and Sead Haksabanovic. They will look to get forward at every possible opportunity and hit crosses into the box.

Uros Djurdjevic will provide a target for the two wide players to aim at in the box while captain Stevan Jovetic will partner him, although he will have more freedom to roam across the final third.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Mijatovic; Vukcevic, Vujacic, Tomasevic, Radunovic; Marusic, Jankovic, Kosovic, Haksabanovic; Jovetic, Djurdjevic

Netherlands

Joel Drommel has withdrawn from the squad due to an illness, while Steven Berghuis and Jurrien Timber also dropped from the team due to injuries. Jasper Cillessen, Steven Bergwijn and Devyne Rensch have been called up as replacements. In addition, Tim Krul, Cody Gakpo and Luuk de Jong, who were part of the preliminary roster, have been axed from the squad by Louis van Gaal.

The former Manchester United manager will set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation on Saturday, with Feyenoord’s Justin Bijlow set to man the goal. Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind pick themselves in the full-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively. While the former will have the permission to romp up and down the flank, the latter will tuck in alongside the two centre-backs to add more security at the back.

Speaking of the centre-backs, Matthijs de Ligt has been overlooked in favour of Stefan de Vrij of late, which is unlikely to change. The Inter Milan star should pair up alongside Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Dutch defence. Frenkie de Jong will sit at the base of the three-man midfield and look to dictate the tempo of the game. He will need to be precise and pinpoint with his passes to carve open the hosts’ defence.

Georginio Wijnaldum will provide the legs in the middle of the park while also offering a goal threat with his late runs forward. The third slot in the centre ought to fall to Davy Klaassen, with Teun Koopmeiners and Ryan Gravenberch likely to get minutes from the bench.

Up top, Memphis Depay is a certain starter as the No. 9. With no Berghuis, Arnaut Danjuma, who has been linked with Liverpool, should get the nod in the frontline. He ought to start on the left flank while Noa Lang takes up the right-wing.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bijlow; Dumfries, de Vrij, van Dijk, Blind; Wijnaldum, de Jong, Klaassen; Lang, Depay, Danjuma

Key Stats

  • This will be the second time that Netherlands will face Montenegro. The previous encounter played out in September, ended in a 4-0 win for the Dutch.
  • If he scores on Saturday, Memphis Depay can go past Ruud van Nistelrooy and Faas Wilkes to become the fifth-highest goalscorer for Netherlands. He is currently tied with the former stars on 35 goals.
  • Montenegro captain Stevan Jovetic is the nation’s all-time leading goalscorer with 31 strikes from 62 matches. He is also second on the list of most-capped players for the Brave Falcons, only behind Fatos Beciraj (83).
  • Since the turn of the year, Netherlands have lost just two of their 14 matches across all competitions (W10 D2).
  • Of their ten matches in 2021, Montenegro have picked up just three wins (D3 L4). They have kept a clean sheet in two of their last three games.

Player to Watch

Memphis Depay

Netherlands' hit-man. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images,)

Netherlands’ hitman. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images,)

While he may have hit a little rough patch at his new club, Barcelona, in recent times, Memphis Depay is continuing to fire on all cylinders for the Netherlands national team. The former Manchester United star was on target in the last game against Gibraltar, scoring a brace, and has found the back of the net seven times in the previous four games, including a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Turkey.

This kind of form bodes very well for the Dutch heading into the final two games of the qualifiers, especially with experienced players like Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong not part of the squad. Depay will need to step up and lead this Netherlands team to a win on Saturday to take them closer to the showpiece event in Qatar.

Prediction

Montenegro 0-3 Netherlands

Montenegro are no match to this Netherlands side, who seem to be hitting their strides under the watchful eye of Louis van Gaal. The Oranje are in top form, winning four in a row, scoring 17 in that run while letting in just one. Montenegro have shown defensive discipline and resilience in recent games, so they might be able to keep their visitors from scoring many, but a comfortable victory for the Dutch should be a given.

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