Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal will be keen to seize the initiative in UEFA Nations League Group B when they face the Czech Republic on Thursday.

Iberian giants Portugal will be keen to secure their hold on the top spot in the UEFA Nations League Group B when they take on the second-placed Czech Republic at the Estadio Jose Alvalade on Thursday night.

Both sides have won one and drawn one of their two opening games and are joint top on points. A win for either side will see them pull away at the halfway mark of the group stages. With Spain also in the fray, a win would be a welcome result for both Portugal and the Czech Republic.

Fernando Santos’s side were the inaugural winners of the competition in 2019 and will go into the game as the favourites. Playing in front of their home crowd, A Selecao also have the necessary quality to secure all three points on the night. Anything less should be viewed as an upset.

The Czech Republic have given a good account of themselves so far in the competition. They defeated Switzerland and then followed it up with an impressive 2-2 draw against Spain. While Portugal do have the better players, they have shown themselves to have a soft underbelly if pushed.

Both sides have faced off against each other only thrice, with their last meeting coming at UEFA Euro 2012. Portugal won 1-0 on the night courtesy of a Ronaldo goal. The 37-year-old is still around and continues to remain hungry for goals and could prove to be the difference-maker once again. The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Portugal

Fernando Santos’s men have an excellent record in the competition, losing just one of their 14 encounters in the competition. The Iberians are no pushovers and have some of the best players at their disposal.

Portugal are currently unbeaten in their two group stage games this season and will be keen to tighten their stranglehold on the top spot. With the FIFA World Cup set to take place later this year, it can be argued that the Iberians can use the Nations League as a dress rehearsal for the trip to Qatar.

Going all the way would certainly boost their morale going into the World Cup and also boost confidence that the famous trophy can finally be brought home. Having won six of their last seven home games, they go into the match with a clear advantage.

Santos is likely to persist with a 4-3-3 formation on the night with Rui Patricio starting behind a flat back four of Joao Cancelo, Domingos Duarte, Danilo Pereira and Raphael Guerreiro. 39-year-old Pepe has started Portugal’s last two matches and is likely to be afforded a rest on the night.

Joao Palhinha will be tasked with holding the fort in midfield, affording Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva the freedom to dictate play and control possession. AC Milan star Rafael Leao is likely to hold onto his spot on the left-wing, with Otavio doing a similar job on the other flank. Ronaldo will start up front and will look to add to his historical goal tally at the international level.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Patrício; Cancelo, Pereira, Duarte, Guerreiro; Moutinho, Palhinha, Fernandes; Silva, Ronaldo, Leao

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Czech Republic

The Czech Republic are a far superior side to the one that lost to Portugal in 2012 and have already made life difficult for Spain. They now have the chance to polish off the Iberian set by travelling to Portugal to face off against Fernando Santos’s men.

A win will give Jaroslav Silhavy’s side breathing space at the top going into the final three games of the group stages. Unlike their opponents, the Czech do have some injury concerns. Jaroslav Zeleny was taken off against Spain only for his replacement Jakub Jankto to also suffer a similar fate. The absence of Patrik Schick is also another blow that Silhavy will need to cope with.

This could see Milan Havel switch over to the left-flank as a makeshift cover. Given that the Czech will make use of a 3-5-2 formation, their wing-backs must win the battle on the flanks. Havel and Vladimir Coufal could have their hands full against Rafael Leao and Otavio on the night. More so, Portugal’s full-back duo of Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro are also adept going forward and could overload the flanks on the night.

The onus to hold the formation and help the Czech Republic retain their shape will fall onto the midfield duo of Tomas Soucek and Alex Kral. They will act as a shield to the back three of Ales Mateju, Jakub Brabec and David Zima. Tomas Vaclik will be the visitors’ last line of defence in goal.

Soucek and Kral’s success in winning the midfield battle will open up Adam Hlozek and Jakub Pesek to contribute to the attack. The duo will provide the openings for Jan Kuchta, who will start up front. With Ruben Dias absent for Portugal, the Czech could help themselves by taking the game to the home side on the night.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Vaclik; Zima, Brabec, Mateju; Coufal, Kral, Soucek, Havel; Hlozek, Pesek; Kuchta 

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Key Stats

  • Portugal have lost just one of their 14 games in the UEFA Nations League. They also average four goals at home in the UEFA Nations League.
  •  The Czech Republic have not lost in five of their last six away games. They are also currently unbeaten in their last six games across all competitions.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has already scored twice in this season’s competition and is the joint top scorer. He already has 117 international goals to his name, more than any other player in the history of football.
  • Portugal can be unconvincing at times but are unbeaten in 62 of their last 69 international games.
  • Portugal have scored more than one goal in their last nine home games in all competitions.

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

His time to shine again? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

His time to shine again? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

When it comes to Portugal, it is difficult to look past Cristiano Ronaldo. The veteran continues to be a menace in front of goal and has shown that age is just a number. He has already scored twice in this year’s competition and will look to add to that tally on Thursday.

A Selecao also have several other players who can cause havoc, especially Rafael Leao and Bruno Fernandes. However, it is Ronaldo who brings them all together and gets them playing in a solid system. He is also often at hand to finish off moves with clinical accuracy.

It is fair to say that his movement and directness will prove to be a constant danger for the Czech Republic. A reliable goalscorer, one can put their money on the line claiming that Ronaldo will be in the thick of anything good Portugal manages to cook in attack on Thursday night.

Prediction

Portugal 1-1 Czech Republic

While Portugal do have a good record in the competition, the Czech Republic also come into the game on the back of an impressive away spell. They have lost just one game out of six so far. They also had Spain on the ropes last time out and were only denied all three points thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser.

Portugal certainly go into the game as favourites, but the Czech Republic’s fearless style coupled with their ability to play the game head-on has made them formidable rivals. The Iberians certainly have better players on the pitch and home support to boot. The game is likely to be a close one with both sides settling for a share of the spoils.

One Response to “Portugal vs Czech Republic Preview: Probable Lineups, Prediction, Tactics, Team News & Key Stats”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Yvonne says:

    With a formation of 4-3-3
    Jota, Cr7, Otavio
    Jao Paul, Danilo, Bruno
    Cancelo, Pepe, periere, Gurreiro
    Czech would be easily trashed in the first half

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