The top spot in Group 2 of the UEFA Nations League will be up for grabs when Spain travel to the Estadio Municipal de Braga to take on Portugal
All eyes will be on Group 2 of the UEFA Nations League where former champions Portugal take on Spain with the top spot up for grabs. The home side is coming off the back of a thumping 4-0 win away to The Czech Republic and will go into the game full of optimism.
Luis Enrique’s Spain, for all their talent, have grossly underachieved and were humbled 2-1 at home by Switzerland last week. This leaves them with an uphill task against Selecao, who can turn up the style on their day.
The games between the two sides have come to be tight affairs in recent times. In fact, their last five games across all competitions have ended in draws, three of which were scoreless. While a draw will do for Portugal on the night, Spain have little option but to go for it. A loss on the night and a win for Switzerland will see La Furia Roja finish third in the group. Given that they were top of the group at the end of match week four, it would be a monumental collapse indeed.
Both sides played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture earlier this year. Spain have the upper hand in the fixture, having won 18 of the 40 meetings between the two sides. Portugal have won just six games but goes into the game as favorites and are also in better shape at the moment. It promises to be a thrilling affair between the two Iberian giants in game week six.
The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they could employ.
Team News & Tactics
☀️ Bom dia, Porto!
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SEFutbol) September 26, 2022
The Selecao were at their clinical best against the Czech Republic and put in a stellar performance in the 4-0 win. The victory took them back to the summit of Group 2, and they will go into the final game as favorites to keep hold of the top spot.
Portugal have also kept three clean sheets in their last four games in the competition and have enough reasons to be optimistic about getting the desired result. Anything other than a loss on the night should see Fernando Santos’s side end their night at the top of the group.
The 4-2-3-1 formation worked to treat against the Czech Republic , and Santos is likely to reprise the same tactics on Tuesday. The double pivot will also give the Portuguese backline enough protection, not putting undue stress on Bruno Fernandes to track back and defend. This will leave the Manchester United man free to do what he does best-craft opportunities and prize open opposition defences.
Diogo Costa will hold onto his spot in goal, and will play behind a flat back four of Diogo Dalot, Ruben Dias, Danilo Pereira and the returning Joao Cancelo. Ruben Neves will form half of the double pivot alongside Joao Palhinha, who will replace William Carvalho in the starting XI.
Bruno Fernandes will reprise his role as the number ten, and will be responsible for crafting opportunities for Cristiano Ronaldo alongside Rafael Leao and Bernardo Silva. Diogo Jota scored against the Czech Republic and will be an option off the bench if needed.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): CosTA; Dalot, Dias, Pereira, Cancelo; Palhinha, Neves; Silva, Fernandes, Leao; Ronaldo
Luis Enrique left out Dani Carvajal and Diego Llorente from the clash against Switzerland, fearing they would earn a yellow card that would rule them out of the crunch clash against Spain. La Furia Roja’s manager now has no choice but to go in at full strength on the night as the visitors seek all three points.
Anything less than a victory will prove inadequate in Spain’s efforts to finish at the top of the league. Enrique is likely to deploy his side in a 4-3-3 on the night and will seek to gain the upper hand from the word go. A fast start is the need of the hour, and anything otherwise will only hand the initiative to the home side.
???✌️ ?????? na preparação para o duelo com a ??! #VesteABandeira ??
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) September 26, 2022
Unai Simon will start in goal behind a back four of Dani Carvajal, Eric Garcia, Pau Torres and Jordi Alba. Manchester City star Rodri will act as the lynchpin in midfield and will be keen to put a shackle on Fernandes. Doing so should stem the initiative in the home side’s attack and help Spain do what they love most, retain possession of the football.
Pedri and Koke will make up the midfield numbers and hope to get the better of Portugal’s double pivot. It should prove to be an interesting contest as the visitors look to pass their way out of the home side’s solid rearguard. Alvaro Morata will lead the line and will be flanked by Ferran Torres and Pablo Sarabia.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Simon; Carvajal, Garcia, Torres, Alba; Koke, Rodri, Pedri; Sarabia, Morata, Torres
- Of the 40 meetings between the two sides across all competitions, Spain have won 18 games, with Portugal coming out on top just six times.
- Portugal have conceded just twice in their five UEFA Nations League games so far and have the best defence of any of the 16 teams in League A.
- The last five games between the two sides have ended in a stalemate at the end of 90 minutes. Another stalemate on the night will make it the longest run of games between both teams where neither have managed a win.
- The last time that Portugal defeated Spain in a competitive fixture was at the Euro 2004 tournament.
Player to Watch
The Manchester City man has been a key cog in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League conquering side and will need to showcase the same at the international level in a must-win game. His ability to break up opposition moves and retain possession will be a boon for a side that will be forced to take the game to their opponents on the night.
Rodri is also capable of dribbling upfield and will add bodies to the offence. With Spain failing to click into top form of late, the onus will be on him to ensure that the defence and the attack work in unison. La Roja have largely succeeded when the first XI as a whole exceeded the sum of their parts, and the midfield base of all those sides has been anchored by reliable stars like Marcos Senna and Sergio Busquets.
This is Rodri’s chance to write his name into his nation’s folklore and ensure the side’s progress in the competition. With the FIFA World Cup coming up, the country needs their best players to step up and could do with a hero or two rising to the occasion.
Portugal 2-1 Spain
Portugal aren’t just in a better run of form at the moment but are also a side that appears well settled. With home support to egg them on, Santos and his men from him will have no excuse to throw away the initiative on the night. Spain are currently out of sorts and have looked far from impressive throughout the tournament. There will be one Iberian side celebrating on the night, and Portugal appears likely to be the one to come up with trumps.