Portugal travel to Serbia on Saturday night in, what you’d expect, could be an early pace-setter for World Cup qualifying Group A.
Both teams won their opening fixture on Wednesday night, with an Aleksandar Mitrovic brace giving Serbia a thrilling 3-2 win over Ireland, and a first half own-goal securing Portugal the three points against Azerbaijan.
There are no new injury concerns for either camp but, after his blunder to give away a second on Wednesday night, Stefan Mitrovic could be given a rest to freshen up Dragan Stojkovic’s back line. Meanwhile, Fernando Santos may decide to rotate his attack after the lack of bite they showed in their opener.
So, let’s see how the two sides could lineup and how they might get on in this crucial Group A match.
Marko Dmitrovic (GK) – Has actually scored this season, and while that is exciting, needs to be on top form in his own box to keep out Portugal’s attack.
Nikola Milenkovic (CB) – An experienced international, with 27 caps. Will have a busy evening defending Cristiano Ronaldo down the left.
Nemanja Gudelj (CB) – Usually a defensive midfielder but could slot into a back three to provide some composure.
Strahinja Pavlovic (CB) – At just 19 years of age he might struggle against such a potent front line. But, with five caps to his name, he’s already shown quality at this level.
Milan Gajic (RWB) – The Red Star Belgrade man has just one cap to his name so far, but could cement his place in the side with a good showing against the reigning European champions.
Nemanja Maksimovic (CM) – He will have the crucial role of providing a base in midfield to protect his back line from Portugal’s quality.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (CM) – Can be the heartbeat of the Serbia side and, with his ability, could change the tide of the game in his box to box role.
Filip Kostic (LWB) – Has been excellent for Eintracht Frankfurt this season and while he may need to focus more on defensive duties on Saturday, he is a real threat when given license.
Dusan Tadic (CF) – Got a hat trick of assists in his side’s 3-2 victory on Wednesday -essential, to say the least.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (ST) – Grabbed a brace on that night to become his nation’s joint all-time top scorer with 38 goals, and will be hoping to extend that tally soon.
Dusan Vlahovic (ST) – While still only 20, the Fiorentina man has netted twice in five caps and his goal against Ireland should earn him another start.
Anthony Lopes (GK) – With Rui Patricio out injured, the Lyon man is the only capped goalkeeper available to Santos.
Joao Cancelo (RB) – We all know how much he can influence proceedings and, with a resolute Serbia to face, he could be the man to create something out of nothing.
Jose Fonte (CB) – Domingos Duarte started against Azerbaijan but Santos may opt for the experience of Fonte against a potent Serbian attack.
Ruben Dias (CB) – There’s no replacing the Manchester City man for club or country at the moment – a guaranteed starter.
Nuno Mendes (LB) – The 18-year-old came in for the injured Raphael Guerreiro to make his debut on Wednesday and did enough to merit another cap.
Ruben Neves (CM) – With Joao Moutinho ruled out with an injury, Neves will likely keep his place in the starting lineup.
Danilo Pereira (CM) – Could come into the side for his 45th cap and can provide some defensive solidity deep in midfield.
Bruno Fernandes (AM) – A crucial cog to both club and country and, while he didn’t start on Wednesday, will surely come into the XI this time round to inject a creative spark.
Bernardo Silva (RW) – Featured as a central midfielder on Wednesday but his versatility can be vital to Santos. Might be pushed up for Saturday’s game to cause problems for the inexperienced Pavlovic.
Joao Felix (ST) – Hasn’t had a great domestic season for Atletico Madrid but his quality is undeniable. Can be a menace when playing alongside the plethora of attacking options Portugal boast.
Cristiano Ronaldo (LW) – The main attraction. Hasn’t scored in three internationals, but will certainly be confident of building on his 102 Portugal strikes on Saturday night.
These two sides have faced each other on six previous occasions, with Saturday’s hosts never winning. Portugal have come out on top three times while the other three have been draws. Their last meeting was in September 2019, when Portugal won 4-2 in Serbia in a EURO 2020 qualifier.
Although they didn’t show it against Azerbaijan, Portugal’s front line can be ruthless and as dangerous as any side on their day. And, while Serbia boast good options in forward areas of the pitch, their backline will undeniably struggle to cope with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Ronaldo.
There has also never been a clean for either team in the six previous meetings so we can expect goals, but Portugal’s firepower should be enough to outscore Serbia on the night.
Prediction: Serbia 1-3 Portugal