Serbia VS Portugal, visitors to scrape a narrow win

Posted Sat, 27 Mar 2021 09:32:28 GMT        

Match Time:3/28/2021 03:45 Sunday  (GMT+8)

FIFA World Cup qualification (UEFA) --  Serbia   VS   Portugal

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Serbia and Portugal will both be aiming to build on opening-day victories in World Cup qualification when they do battle at the Stadion Rajko Mitic on Saturday evening in Group A.

 

The hosts edged a five-goal thriller with the Republic of Ireland in their first game, while Portugal needed a huge stroke of luck to overcome Azerbaijan in midweek.

 

Match preview

Aleksandar Mitrovic's ongoing troubles at Fulham have clearly not affected his ability on the international stage, as Serbia's star striker rediscovered his goalscoring touch at the perfect time to help his side to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ireland on matchday one.

 

The former Newcastle United man had only been on the pitch for five minutes before scoring a delightful chip past a hapless Mark Travers, and he soon doubled his tally with what proved to be the game-winning header in the 75th minute, with James Collins's late tap-in unable to inspire Ireland to a dramatic comeback on Serbia's turf.

 

An intense battle for the centre-forward spot is now brewing in Serbia's ranks after Dusan Vlahovic started and scored on the night, with Mitrovic also hopeful of fending off Luka Jovic for the opportunity to start against Portugal - quite an ideal dilemma for Dragan Stojkovic to have as his three strikers bid to prove their prowess in the final third.

 

Serbia's goal-laden performance in midweek sees them sit atop the rankings after the first match, although they are only above Portugal on goals scored ahead of a mouthwatering contest, and the two goals they shipped on the night ended a run of three consecutive clean sheets for the hosts across all competitions.

 

Having failed to qualify for the European Championships once again, another appearance on the world stage is no less than the Serbia faithful desire, but the visit of the reigning continental and Nations League champions is sure to be a true test of their World Cup credentials before next week's long journey to Baku.

 

Despite enjoying 67% of the possession and having a whopping 29 shots over the course of 90 minutes, Portugal had to rely on a calamitous defensive error to get the job done against Azerbaijan on Cristiano Ronaldo's turf in Turin.

 

Solid throughout the game, Azerbaijan goalkeeper Shahrudin Mahammadaliyev attempted to punch away a cross in the 37th minute, but the shot-stopper's effort hit the back of captain Maksim Medvedev before trickling into the back of an empty net, and there were no more goals to be had on the night.

 

It was hardly a morale-boosting performance from the current European champions, but Santos affirmed that the three points was ultimately all that mattered on the night, and not a single season or tournament has gone by where a team has not had to win ugly to seal progress or be crowned champions.

 

Portugal have now taken the spoils in four of their last five matches across all competitions and kept their sixth clean sheet from eight games at the Juventus Stadium on Wednesday evening - even with inspirational centre-back Pepe failing to make the cut through injury - so that defensive resolve should certainly serve them well against Mitrovic and co in a top-of-the-table clash.

 

Serbia have never managed to beat Portugal in their six attempts against them - losing three and drawing three against the Iberian nation - and Portugal marched to a 4-2 win over their opponents as recently as September 2019 during European qualification.

 

Serbia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:W

Serbia form (all competitions):LDWDDW

Portugal World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:W

Portugal form (all competitions):DWWLWW

 

Team News

Mitrovic will certainly be eyeing a starting role after finding his shooting boots against Ireland, so Jovic and Filip Djuricic may have to make do with spots on the bench for this one.

 

Dusan Tadic bagged both assists for Mitrovic's goals so is in no danger of losing his place in the attack, while Filip Kostic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are both in line for recalls to the engine room.

 

Stefan Mitrovic did not cover himself in glory for Ireland's second goal on the night, so Nemanja Gudelj is waiting in the wings for his opportunity in a back three.

 

Eighteen-year-old Sporting Lisbon defender Nuno Mendes was handed a start on the left after an injury to Raphael Guerreiro, and the Manchester City linked-starlet is in line for his second Portugal cap this weekend.

 

Bruno Fernandes was introduced at half time against Azerbaijan and should certainly be recalled to the starting lineup here, with Joao Moutinho's spot in the midfield also under threat from the returning Danilo Pereira.

 

Santos also hailed the impact of Joao Felix in midweek, and given his side's lack of ruthlessness on the night, he may be tempted to introduce the Atletico Madrid man and Diogo Jota to the first XI this time around.

 

Serbia possible starting lineup:

Dmitrovic; Pavlovic, Milenkovic, S. Mitrovic; Gagic, Maksimovic, Milinkovic-Savic, Kostic; Tadic; Vlahovic, A. Mitrovic

 

Portugal possible starting lineup:

Lopes; Cancelo, Duarte, Dias, Mendes; Pereira, Moutinho, Fernandes; Neto, Felix, Ronaldo

 

Serbia 1-2 Portugal

 

Serbia VS Portugal, visitors to scrape a narrow win