Defending European Champions Portugal will be disappointed with their goalless draw against Ukraine, and will need a win here against Serbia to take control of Group B. It was a shaky start to qualification for the Portuguese, against a side ranked 24 places below them according to FIFA’s estimation. Serbia’s confidence, meanwhile, would have been boosted by their friendly draw against Germany.
Serbia has looked a dangerous outfit since the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and remain unbeaten in their past seven games, winning four of those. Eintracht Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic is attracting interest from Europe’s elite clubs, and the 21-year-old did his reputation no damage by scoring the opener against Germany on Wednesday night.
“Portugal is the number one favorite in the group, the champion of Europe and a very good selection, we were at the stadium, I watched their match. It is a great team that we appreciate and respect, but we are not afraid …”, said the selector of Serbia, Mladen Krstajić.
“But we are weakened … You know that Matić, Fejsa, Kolarov, Kostić and Prijović are not with us.”
Portugal will have to be at their best to breach the Serbian defence, and they’ll need some defensive solidity of their own to keep out a dangerous attacking unit.
Sporting Lisbon midfielder Bruno Fernandes is the only absentee from the Portugal squad that Fernando Santos initially named due to injury.
Ajax playmaker Dusan Tadic, Real Madrid’s tormentor in the Champions League round of 16, will return to the Serbia squad for this clash. Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will also start here, but it remains to be seen if he takes the place of versatile and talented Luka Jovic or the pair form a duo up front.
Qualifying opens against the toughest rivals – Portugal’s selection, the official European champion, at their home in Lisbon at the La Luz Stadium, at 20.45 am tonight.