Portugal open their World Cup campaign against their neighbours Spain in arguably the highest quality match of the group stage and they will be buoyed by the disruption in the Spanish camp ahead of this game.
Fernando Santos has some interesting selection decisions to make as the form of the likes of Goncalo Guedes and Bruno Fernandes in the friendlies could see them force their way into the side ahead of Joao Mario and Andre Silva.
The central defensive options are loaded with experience in Pepe, Fonte and Bruno Alves, but there is a serious lack of pace down the middle. While Spain and Diego Costa may not particularly exploit that, it could be an issue for the European champions as the tournament progresses.
Predicted line-up (4-4-2):
Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro
Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho, Joao Moutinho, Bruno Fernandes
Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva
Spain’s World Cup plans and preparations were thrown into turmoil with the departure of coach Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday – two days before this match – and the appointment of Fernando Hierro to replace him.
For many teams, that would likely cause all kinds of issues but Hierro has been part of the set-up along with Albert Celades who will assist him, and the fundamentals tactically will not change so it is purely the politics which may have an impact but are unlikely to damage the motivation of a set of players at this level.
Dani Carvajal continues to struggle with injury so talented youngster Odriozola is expected to start at right-back, but the rest of the team is pretty much a formality for Hierro and no (more!) surprises are expected.
Predicted line-up (4-3-3):
Odriozola, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Alba
Koke, Busquets, Iniesta
Isco, Diego Costa, David Silva
Much has been made of the chaos within the Spanish camp and the change of coach so close to the start of the World Cup but that is arguably being overplayed. When this match and the World Cup starts, the entire focus will be on the pitch and that will only likely become a factor if things start to go wrong for them. They are arguably the most well-drilled national team around in terms of tactics, formation, and experience of playing together. This match should be an interesting one, but it may be relatively tame rather than a blockbuster. Portugal will aim to spoil and get plenty of men behind the ball, relying on Ronaldo to create some magic. That could lead to something of a stalemate so do not expect many goals here, and both sides may be content with a point apiece.
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