Portugal will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they host Sweden on Wednesday, in the UEFA Nations League.
It has been a dull affair for Portuguese fans in this international break as their nation have drawn both their fixtures, with the two games failing to yield a single goal.
The 2016 European Championship winners could only muster one shot on target in the friendly against Spain. But it was the goalless draw with France that now puts them in danger of potentially losing their place at the top of the table, should Portugal fail to win against Sweden on Wednesday.
Sweden themselves haven’t had a positive campaign so far, notably losing all three of their Nations League fixtures. It puts them at the bottom of the table, with their latest defeat coming against Croatia this past weekend.
Sweden, however, did secure a win over Russia in a friendly last week and they will be hoping to take some confidence from that performance when they lock horns with Portugal this midweek. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two nations, ahead of this highly-anticipated match-up in the UEFA Nations League.
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De volta aos treinos ?? #VamosTodos #VamosComTudo pic.twitter.com/5IlkcpOEaY
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) October 12, 2020
Fernando Santos might be forced to make one or two key alterations, resting important players in order to avoid the wrath of managers across club football. Bernardo Silva, in particular, has had difficulties over his fitness this season and having featured in the last game, the Manchester City star might have to settle for a place on the bench.
Silva will most likely be deputised by the in-form Liverpool ace Diogo Jota at right wing, with Cristiano Ronaldo operating on the opposite flank. The Portuguese attack should be spearheaded by Joao Felix, although it is Ronaldo who is more likely to play a key role in the final third.
Speaking of the final third, Portugal will be relying on the creative prowess of Bruno Fernandes in what could be a 4-2-3-1, though the Manchester United playmaker could drop deep and make it a 4-3-3. Either way, Fernandes is likely to be supported by the defensive midfield pairing of Danilo Pereira and Joao Moutinho.
There could be changes in defence, particularly in the right-back slot, with Joao Cancelo expected to come in at the expense of Nelson Semedo. Raphael Guerreiro, however, is set to retain his place on the opposite flank.
The Portuguese defence, meanwhile, should be led by Pepe, alongside the new Manchester City signing Ruben Dias, with Rui Patricio retaining his place in between the sticks.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Patricio; Cancelo, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Pereira, Moutinho; Jota, Fernandes, Ronaldo; Felix
Following the Russia game, Sweden have been blessed with the return of key players like Dejan Kulusevski and Ludwig Augustinsson while Gustav Svensson is available for selection after missing the last game due to suspension, which was picked up due to a red card against Portugal, in the reverse fixture.
Nevertheless, we can expect Svensson to feature in central midfield, most likely at the expense of Albin Ekdal. Janne Anderson’s 4-4-2 formation, meanwhile, should see the Seattle Sounders midfielder being partnered by Kristoffer Olsson in the double-pivot.
Heads up guys! ??Vi laddar om inför nästa match. ???? pic.twitter.com/HzwRbznV8U
— Emil Forsberg (@eforsberg10) October 11, 2020
The in-form Emil Forsberg and Kulusevski both fared in the last game against Croatia. They are set to retain their place in the starting lineup and will be tasked with the responsibility of providing the creative and attacking spark going forward. Forsberg, in particular, is one to keep an eye on.
The Sweden attack should be spearheaded by the offensive duo of Alexander Isak and Marcus Berg, who was the scorer of his team’s only one in the 2-1 defeat to Croatia.
And finally, the Swedish defence should comprise of Mikael Lustig, Pontus Jansson, Victor Lindelof and Ludwig Augustinsson. They are likely to defend in deep blocks and provide maximum cover for goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Jansson, Lindelof, Augustinsson; Kulusevski, Olsson, Svensson, Forsberg; Isak, Berg
- Portugal’s record in 19 games against Sweden reads W6 D6 L7; however, they won 2-0 in Solna in September, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his 100th and 101st international goals.
- Sweden played at Lisbon’s Estádio José Alvalade during UEFA EURO 2004, producing a memorable performance in a 5-0 victory over Bulgaria in the group stage.
- Portugal are yet to score or concede a single goal in this ongoing international break. They last failed to score back in March 2019, in a goalless draw with Sweden.
- In 19 encounters between these two sides, it is Sweden who hold the advantage. The Scandinavians have beaten Portugal seven times, while Portugal have won six games, with six games ending in draws.
Player to Watch
While Felix is always a treat to watch, there is no guessing over the fact that it is Cristiano Ronaldo who will be desperate to find some scoring form after missing the target in the game against France.
The Portuguese started the Serie A campaign on a positive note, scoring three goals in two matches. However, he needs to replicate that form against Sweden this midweek if he wants to see his nation retain their place at the top of the group table.
It will be interesting to see how Swedish defenders like Lindelof and Jansson, both extremely talented, deal with the threat of this footballing icon, knowing the fact that he does possess the quality that could further Sweden’s awful record in this edition of the Nations League.
Portugal 2-0 Sweden
Portugal have failed to score in any of their last two matches. However, this time around, they are likely to cherish their home advantage, especially against relatively inferior opposition. We are expecting the hosts to seal a comfortable 2-0 win at the Estadio Jose Alvalade this midweek.
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