Ronaldo injury worry for Juve

Juventus could be without Cristiano Ronaldo for their Champions League last-eight first leg clash against Ajax after he picked up an injury with Portugal.

The 34-year-old, who has scored 24 goals in 36 appearances for the reigning Italian champions, including four in seven Champions League ties this term, was forced off just 30 minutes into his nation's 1-1 Euro 2020 qualification Group B draw against Serbia in Lisbon on Monday.

Ronaldo, making only his second international appearance since last summer's 2018 World Cup, limped off the pitch after receiving some treatment and it appeared the problem was serious.

However, he spoke out afterwards to play down the severity of the injury, although the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star will be rated a doubt for Juve's Champions League quarter-final first leg clash against Ajax in Amsterdam on 10th April.

"I'm not worried about this injury and I'm not afraid, I know my body well. I think I'll be fine in a week or two," he said.

Juve, who are firmly on course to defend their Serie A title as they sit 15 points clear at the top of the table, are 11/10 to win their first leg in Europe against Ajax, while the hosts are priced at 5/2 to win and the draw is 23/10.

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Euro 2020: Ronaldo’s Injury Robbed Portugal Of Points

Portugal 1-1 Serbia

Plenty of footballing fans expected a Portugal team that is led by one Cristiano Ronaldo to make a deep run the competition. When squads have a player of Ronaldo’s calibre, it’s hard not to put some lofty expectations ahead for the team.

The Euro 2020 qualifiers were supposed to be a stepping stone for the defending champions as they try to defend their crown against a tough crop of players. Plenty of pre-match Portugal vs Serbia predictions tipped Portugal to get past their opponents on the grounds of CR7’s existence alone.

However, Portugal’s most important son suffered a knock before the end of the first half. His injury clearly affected his team-mates as they weren’t able to bounce back from the injury. The game ended in a frustrating draw, and I don’t think the fans who flocked the Estadio da Luz were happy with how things turned out.

Highlights of the game

Both teams fielded attack-oriented lineups at the start of the match. With Serbia’s 4-2-3-1 and Portugal’s 4-3-3 with the Juventus ace on the right wing, there was an anticipation for goals to be scored throughout the 90 minutes.

What the crowd didn’t expect, however, was that the first side to score weren’t wearing red. Rui Patricio bodied Mijat Gacinovic who was clear to score on goal. The referee didn’t waste any time pointing to the spot, and Dusan Tadic gladly scored his 30th goal for club and country with a magnificent strike down the left-hand corner of the goal.

Dusan Tadic has defied the odds and led Serbia to a 1-1 draw with Portugal in recent Euro 2020 qualifier

Serbia’s Dusan Tadic celebrates with teammates after scoring a seventh-minute goal against Portugal in Euro 2020 qualifiers

It’s obvious that the Seleccao would want to even up the playing field after the poor goal they conceded. Ronaldo almost got his team back on equal footing with a beautiful shot from just outside the 18-yard box. However, Marko Dmitrovic was quick to deny the star man the goal he so badly needed.

The match continued on, and Portugal were trying to do everything they can to catch up to the Orlovi. Ronaldo had another crack at goal in the 23rd minute, but his shot was blocked by a defender.

That became his last major action in the game as he suddenly signalled for medical assistance 29 minutes into the match. The team physios rushed to his side and immediately deemed him as ineligible to continue any further. Fernando Santos was forced to make a substitution, and Pizzi was called to action.

Ronaldo’s injury was worrisome to two sets of fans. The team struggled to get things going against Ukraine despite plenty of us Euro 2020 markets backing them to win with relative ease. They would have benefitted from a full 90-minute performance from Cristiano.

Moreover, his immediate club future is also affected by this. No one still knows the injury’s severity, and his prospects of playing Ajax in the Champions League is a looming question mark until test results come out.

Fortunately for the rabid Portuguese supporters, the equaliser came just before the half-time break. Danilo Pereira got the ball right in the middle of the pitch and started a run towards the goal. However, there was no one to pass to and the runway was open. He then kept on running until he was in shooting range, and a bullet of a ball clipped the crossbar and flew straight to the goal.

Danilo Pereira has hit an equaliser to save Portugal from being beaten by Serbia during their recent Euro 2020 qualifier

Portugal’s Danilo Pereira celebrates after scoring an equaliser against Serbia in Euro 2020 qualifying game

The entire Estadio da Luz roared to life as Pereira pranced straight to the supporters to celebrate with them. The entire XI also rushed to his side in celebration.

The half ended with Portugal on a high, but the second half saw little to no action as the game ended with the same score 45 minutes later. Andre Silva and Raphael Guerreiro tried to grab the winner in the reset, but neither ended in goals.

They definitely missed Ronaldo’s presence in the game’s latter stages as the Euro 2020 results now place them outside of the qualification slots.

Key statistics

It is fair for Ronaldo’s fans to say that his unfortunate injury prevented him from playing his best. However, he missed a perfect chance to get Portugal in front. The last time he scored for the Seleccao was against Morocco in the 2018 World Cup and has now failed to score in his last four international appearances. His prolific shooting has apparently stayed in Italy.

CR7 isn’t the only man that deserves flak, though. The rest of the players on the pitched failed to capitalise on their time with the football. They a total of 28 attempts, but only five of those were on target.

Props must also be given to the Serbians for sticking to their style of unapologetic football. They also managed to get the same result against Germany, and they will be more than happy to still have a fighting chance.

Interestingly, both sides are also undefeated in their last five games.

Liverpool Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 2.03 1X2 Tottenham Hotspur @ 5.80 Under 2.75 @ 2.02CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.Premier League

What’s next?

The battle for Euro qualification rages on. These two not meet again until October, but both have games to play before then.

Portugal will try to gain glory in the Nations League and will play Switzerland in the semi-final. Meanwhile, Serbia have a busy June with games against Ukraine and Lithuania.

 

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This Game could be Key in Final Euro 2020 Standings

Portugal vs Serbia

It’s early days in Euro 2020 qualifying but this match already has a look of one which could be very important in the final standings.

Serbia have just enjoyed an encouraging 1-1 friendly draw in Germany (not that a tackle late in the game was particularly friendly) and are showing signs of improvement after an uninspiring World Cup.

Meanwhile, the reigning European Champions Portugal will not want to drop more points after encountering frustration in their opening qualifier, being held by Ukraine.

us fans will know Cristiano Ronaldo and Co rarely fail to win twice at home in a row.

Talking Points

Certainly, Portugal know they are facing arguably the side considered their strongest opponents in the group.

Ronaldo will never be far from the Euro 2020 news of course, but he has a star-studded supporting cast, with some of the top players in the Portuguese league at FC Porto and Benfica, as well as big names from the Premier League and La Liga.

Bernardo Silva is having an impressive season at Manchester City and midfield powerhouse William Carvalho is enjoying a fine season at Real Betis.

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Meanwhile, in Wolves’ creative duo Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho who are making waves at club level, plus goalkeeper Rui Patricio, they have a real spark.

Despite their goalless draw against the Ukraine, in which Ronaldo featured for the national team for the first time since last summer’s World Cup in Russia, Portugal showed they remain a force.

Ukraine’s veteran goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov played a key part in frustrating the hosts, twice denying Ronaldo in the first half before pulling off an exceptional save from Andre Silva.

He then tipped over Pepe’s blistering effort and was relieved when an offside flag ruled out a William Carvalho header.

Fernando Santos’ side will meet opponents who have been hit hard by injuries.

Manchester United man Nemanja Matic has already withdrawn from the squad and has been joined on the sidelines by Ljubomir Fejsa with Aleksandsr Kolarov and Filip Kostic already out.

It could be that their trip to the Estadio da Luz may be one game too many for this squad.

History

Serbia will try to have a great start in their Euro 2020 campaign as they battle Portugal

Mladen Krstajic commanding Serbia in touchline

Serbia will be hoping to finally claim a win against Portugal at the fifth attempt.

Both meetings in 2007 – in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign – ended 1-1.

Tiago and Dejan Stankovic traded goals in Belgrade, while Simao and Branislav Ivanovic did the same in Lisbon.

When they next met in 2015 in qualifying for Euro 2016 – a tournament Portugal would go onto win – Ricardo Carvalho and Fabio Coentrao secured a 2-1 Portugal success. Matic netted for Serbia.

Portugal also won the return fixture in Serbia by the same scoreline when Nani and Joao Moutinho scored the goals with Zoran Tosic replying for Serbia.

Betting Tip

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Spain vs Serbia Portugal Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 2.12
March 26, 03:45 (GMT+8)

Euro 2020 qualifying betting odds favour Portugal and that is no surprise.

However, it should be remembered both these sides can be difficult to beat and are unbeaten in their last six matches.

In Serbia coach, Mladen Krstajic, Serbia have a coach who, like Santos, went onto to oversee a promotion winning campaign in the UEFA Nations League.

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Euro 2020: Group B Big Guns Clash in Lisbon

Portugal vs Ukraine

Portugal is the place to be on Friday, to see the reigning European Champions take a Euro 2020 bow at the Stadio Da Luz in Lisbon, where Ukraine is the visitor.

It promises to be a fascinating and hard fought tussle between Fernando Santos’ hosts and Andriy Schevchenko’s in form Ukraine. Both teams will have high hopes of going deep into the competition and each will want to make a strong start.

Ukraine could turn out to be a good bet to, at least, progress from the qualifiers and, after they lifted the 2016 trophy in spectacular fashion, we’re not about to ignore Portugal in our Euro 2020 predictions. They are aiming to be only the second nation to win successive European Championships, which would match Spain’s feat in 2008 and 2012.

Talking Points

This game is a good early marker. In a group containing Serbia, Lithuania and Luxembourg the likely qualifiers will come from three teams; these two and Serbia. Portugal is the clear favourite with a FIFA Ranking of six, while Ukraine and Serbia sit side by side in 30th and 31st. Luxembourg and Lithuania, at 87 and 132 will do very well to avoid the bottom two spots.

Portugal are odds-on favourites to progress through Euro 2020 qualifying

Ukraine should not be dismissed as they have squads capable of qualifying the tournament

Portugal’s creative muscle

Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo will never be far from the Euro 2020 news of course, but he has a star studded supporting cast, with some of the top players in the Portuguese league at FC Porto and Benfica, as well as big names from the Premier League and La Liga.

Bernardo Silva is having an impressive season at Manchester City. Favourites in each competition they are in, the Sky Blues are chasing an historic quadruple and Silva is a key player. He’s an important fixture in Portugal’s attack too, scoring the crucial winner in a UEFA Nations League Group 3 match against Poland.

Midfield powerhouse William Carvalho is having a super season at Real Betis as Los Verdiblancos chase Europa League football. And he is likely to line up alongside Wolves creative duo Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, while their club mate Rui Patricio will be the last line of defence in goal.

Ukraine’s Samba star

So which Ukrainian players should the hosts watch out for? Well, Shevchenko has moved swiftly to register Shakhtar Donetsk’s 31 year old Brazilian striker Junior Moraes after he was granted a Ukraine passport. He could well be the visitors’ most potent attacking threat, and a useful piece in the jigsaw Shevchenko has been putting together, after Ukraine missed out on the 2018 World Cup.

His team has developed some useful consistency, losing only one of ten games in the calendar year and winning their Nations League group with a game to spare. And that means Shevchenko’s side has been promoted to League A, as well as securing at least a Euro 2020 qualification playoff spot.

If his side is to make a good start to this campaign then he’ll be relying on a strong defence, with the likes of Shakhtar centre back Serhiy Kryvstov performing well in 2018.

History

So what can we base our us tips on for this game?

Well this is a clash of two teams on good form. Portugal was unbeaten in its inaugural group appearance in the UEFA Nations League, seeing off Italy and Poland and hasn’t lost in six games, or in the last nine home matches.

Santos’ side faces Switzerland in the Nations League semi-final and will hope to add a new European title to its trophy cabinet.

Ukraine did well too, winning three and losing one to win promotion to League A.

The last time these two teams met in competition was in the World Cup 1998 qualifiers where each side recorded a victory over the two games.

Betting Tip

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Portugal vs Ukraine 2-3 goals @1.86
March 23, 03:45(GMT+8)

Ukraine should provide a good test for Fernando Santos’ side, but the visitors aren’t in Lisbon just to make up the numbers. They have only suffered one loss in 2018 and that when their Nations League group had been successfully sewn up.

But Portugal is at 1.42 to win the game, while Ukraine is at 7.40 and the draw is at 4.20. Home advantage will play a part as the hosts have been successful in Lisbon in recent times, and the stage is set for Ronaldo and Silva to strut their stuff.

I think this will be a close fought match, with probably just a single goal in it and Portugal’s star quality making the difference.

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Southgate ready for Dutch date

England head coach Gareth Southgate is looking forward to the challenge of his side facing the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The Three Lions will take on the Oranje in Guimaraes on Thursday 6th June, with the first semi-final pitting hosts Portugal against Switzerland in Porto a day earlier.

And Southgate, who led his team to the World Cup semi-finals earlier this year, is relishing the opportunity of trying to go at least one better next summer.

He told reporters: "All four teams are very evenly matched. Everyone will feel they have got a good chance.

"I've watched Holland closely since Ronald Koeman took over. They are similar to us in that they've got a lot of exciting young players coming through.

"I think it will be a game of good technical ability, good energy and pace and a game that both sets of supporters can really look forward to.

"It is a really good test for us and we are looking forward to it."

England finished top of the Nations League group ahead of Spain and Croatia, while the Dutch impressed in topping a pool which also included the last two winners of the World Cup – France and Germany.

Portugal booked their place by seeing off Italy and Poland, while the Swiss qualified for the final stages by claiming a 5-2 win over Belgium to edge through on goal difference.

Switzerland are 6/1 to win the Nations League, with England priced at 7/4, Portugal available at 2/1 and the Netherlands 3/1.

England and Holland last met in a competitive fixture during Euro96, when the Three Lions won 4-1 at Wembley thanks to two goals apiece from Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham.

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UEFA Nations League: Portugal Unbeaten, Poland Down

Portugal 1-1 Poland

Group A3 of the UEFA Nations League came to its natural conclusion tonight as Portugal and Poland played out a 1-1 draw—and now head off in opposite directions.

The previous UEFA Nations League 2018 results meant the Portuguese already had seven points to win the group, with Italy second on five points. Poland were here to try to arrest a worrying run of form, but they never really looked like springing a surprise at the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques despite the hosts ending the game with ten men.

This clash was all about playing for pride, and the Poles had to face their task without talisman Robert Lewandowski, ruled out with a knee injury. Meanwhile, the Iberians were without Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva, who was injured in the last game.

At least Poland didn’t lose, but they now drop to League B. And after a dismal World Cup and disappointing Nations League debut, they are heading to their natural level.

Highlights of the game

Portugal were in control of this game and started the match on the front foot until it went down to ten men with half an hour to go.

Renato Sanches had an early attempt blocked while Joao Cancelo’s shot went over the bar as the hosts began to take control. However, there was little fluency to the match as fouls flew in left, right and centre.

Piotr Zielinski showed the most composure in the Poland team. He had an effort charged down, but there was little else to see from the visitors as they seemed ready to accept another defeat at the hands of a technically superior team.

Portugal’s better play was rewarded, on 34 minutes, as Andre Silva reacted first to a Sanches corner to stab the ball home from close range. us football fans know what Silva is all about—the Sevilla star is in a rich vein of form in La Liga, and that was his 15th goal for Portugal in 31 appearances.

That goal prompted a bit of a response from Poland, and Przemyslaw Frankowski had a couple of efforts on goal (the second saved from a tight angle).

In the absence of Lewandowski, Poland were captained by Kamil Grosicki. And the winger had the first effort of the second half, shooting high and wide when Zielinski put him in.

Poland fail to get a win in the UEFA Nations League and they are now relegated to League B

Poland and Portugal players in action during their recent UEFA Nations League clash

In all honesty though, it looked pretty comfortable for the hosts. They didn’t look overly desperate to hunt a second goal, and then came the big moment of drama on 63 minutes.

Arkadiusz Milik was clean through on goal but was felled by Danilo Pereira before he could pull the trigger. The Porto midfielder received his marching orders and Milik climbed to his feet to fire the ball into the bottom right corner and beyond the reach of Beto.

The numerical advantage began to tell. Zielinski hit a shot low towards the corner before Beto got down to make a smart save. Damian Kadzior had an effort from distance which whistled narrowly wide but—despite huffing and puffing for the final ten minutes—the Poles couldn’t find a finish to end their time in League A with a win.

Key statistics

With Portugal down to ten men, the visitors had a real go at the end. They finished with 13 shots, though only three were on target. Tellingly, Poland’s passing accuracy in the attacking third was down at 50 percent.

The stalemate continued a run for each team: Poland haven’t won in their last six games while Portugal haven’t lost in six.

The spot-kick success was Poland’s first goal in three games, probably as much as they could have hoped for without Lewandowski up front.

What’s next?

There’s plenty to look forward to for Portugal fans as part of the first ever Nations League final set to do battle next year. The European Champions will be hosting the finals in June, and they can go forward with confidence after winning a group containing Italy.

The UEFA Nations League 2018 betting makes for interesting reading: Portugal are second-favourites just behind England, with the Netherlands and Switzerland outsiders. Big teams including France and Spain have been dispatched so, with Cristiano Ronaldo sure to return, Portugal have its sights on another European crown.

And then they’ll be ready to begin their European title defence as the 2020 competition qualifiers start in the spring.

The draw takes place in December and the matches begin in March, with the 2020 tournament is to be played in numerous locations across Europe.

Poland can look forward too. But life doesn’t look quite so rosy for Jerzy Brzeczek’s boys.

 

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UEFA Nations League: Play for your Pride

Portugal vs Poland

The UEFA Nations League heads to the Estadio D. Alfonso Henriques on Tuesday night for another Group A3 clash as Portugal takes on Poland.

UEFA Nations League 2018 odds are very much in favour of the first title heading to Belgium, but Portugal is right in there with a good shout, having already won this group with a game to spare. It’s a different story for Poland though, as they are already relegated to League B. So what is there to play for? Pride of course!

Poland is a proud nation with a history of winning big games as underdogs, and in Robert Lewandowski they have a proven match-winner. But Portugal has a team blessed with attacking flair and is unlikely to show any mercy on Tuesday.

Talking points

This is a still a good game for us us UEFA Nations League fans to get our teeth into, and a chance for the coaches to experiment a little. Nobody likes losing though so we’ll see some big names. Probably not Cristiano Ronaldo though.

Portugal aim to satisfy us UEFA Nations League fans and win as host

Bernardo Silva’s goal put Portugal on win in their last meeting vs Poland

Just how good is Portugal?

There’s no way of keeping Cristiano out of the UEFA Nations League 2018 news, or any football news for that matter but Portugal did a job on Italy without him last week, to ensure they progress to the final stages after winning Group A3. Rui Patricio was the man of the match as Italy failed to score despite attacking from the off. He’s in the form of his life for Wolves in the Premier League and transferred that to the international stage with an accomplished display.

He commands his area well and is a brave shot stopper, a real coup for Wolves and a huge asset to the national team.

Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva scored a beauty in the return match, as Portugal ran out 2-3 winners in Poland. Seville striker Andre Silva also scored in that game and is in wonderful form for his club, with nine goals to his name already, as well as netting 14 times in 30 internationals, an impressive ratio.

Losing to Uruguay in the Round of 16 at the World Cup was a disappointment, but Oscar Tabarez’ side was one of the form teams of the competition, so a kinder draw would probably have seen Portugal progress further. This is a good group of players for sure, after all they are European Champions, but it’s a better team with Cristiano Ronaldo in it.

Can Lewandowski still inspire Poland?

One of the best and most lethal strikers in World Football, Robert Lewandowski hasn’t had the best of years. The Poles have been on a downward trajectory since the World Cup where they failed to get out of a group containing Japan and Senegal. That hurt Lewandowski and the disappointment seems to have affected the Poles since, as they have failed to register a win in the Nations League and lost a home friendly to the Czech Republic by 0-1 last week.

For most of this year Lewandowski has been heavily linked with a move away from FC Bayern, where he has been so prolific, possibly to Real Madrid as a replacement for Ronaldo. But the Bundesliga champions have been reported to be unwilling to part with their star striker for any fee. Has he become distracted? Who knows? He is Poland’s all time leading scorer with 55 goals in 102 internationals but, amazingly, hasn’t hit the target in the last eight.

Piotr Zielinski is arguably Poland’s most influential player at the moment and the Napoli midfielder could be the man to unlock Portugal’s defence.

History

In the nine meetings since 1982 Portugal has had the upper hand, winning five to Poland’s two, and the odds are heavily in favour of them making it six. The most famous victory was when Portugal beat Poland on their way to European Championship success in 2016.

Poland hasn’t won in its last five games while Portugal hasn’t lost in five, so it’s hard to see an away win at odds of 5.80, particularly as the hosts are unbeaten in the last eight games on home soil.

And Poland has never previously won in Portugal so they need to make some history.

Betting tip

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Portugal vs Poland Under 2.25 goals @ 2.06
November 21, 03:45 (GMT+8)

In a dead rubber it’s hard to predict which players will be on show, but I think we can expect a competitive game as Portugal has an unbeaten run to preserve, while Poland wants to rediscover its form and pride.

Lewandowski will be desperate to end his dry spell but I don’t think there will be a hatful of goals, after all Poland is without a goal in the last two games.

For an alternative bet the most likely score line is 1-0 at odds of 5.20, with a 1-1 draw at 6.70.

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O’Neill seeks Hendrick improvement

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill says he wants to see Jeff Hendrick contribute more against Denmark on Monday.

The Burnley midfielder was one of the stars of the team's Euro 2016 campaign but has struggled for form since.

He is fighting for his place with Sean Dyche's side in the Premier League but is still one of the first names on O'Neill’s teamsheet, though his international boss is hoping for more from him.

O'Neill said: "Jeff has not reached the heights that he did with us a couple of seasons ago and, at this minute, he's lost his place at Burnley.

"I still think Jeff can and should do better for us in the middle of the field, which I feel is his proper position."

Monday night's match in the Nations League is a dead rubber with Denmark confirmed as group winners following their win over Wales on Friday, a result that relegated the Irish.

So there is only pride to play for, though O'Neill anticipates a hard game, especially with Christian Eriksen in the Denmark side after scoring a hat-trick against the Irish in last November's World Cup 2018 play-off.

"World-class players can deal with situations and Eriksen is a world-class footballer, he will be hard to deal with," O'Neill added.

"I think that regardless of some sort of plans you might make, players can extricate themselves from those positions.

"We gave him a bit of space (in the play-off), particularly in the second half, which he exploited pretty well – he's a top-class player."

Denmark are 8/13 to win Monday's game with the Republic of Ireland 13/2 and the draw 27/10. Eriksen is 9/2 to score the first goal of the game.

The Republic of Ireland have been relegated to League C for the next Nations League tournament. while Denmark will be in League A.

England meanwhile have qualified for next summer's Nations League finals and are 5/2 to win the tournament with hosts Portugal 10/3.

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UEFA Nations League: European Champions Thwart Wasteful Italy

Italy 0-0 Portugal

Portugal knew that securing a draw in Milan would mean they were home and hosed in the UEFA Nations League.

That would ensure they mathematically won Group A3 and go through to the final four at the expense of the Azzurri who had only taken four points from their opening three games.

However, the reigning European champions were missing world number one Cristiano Ronaldo as well as the suspended Pepe and the injured Andre Gomes against opponents who simply had to attack from the outset.

This clash at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza was going to be compelling for that reason alone.

And so it proved.

Highlights of the game

Portugal had not lost a competitive away fixture (apart from in tournaments) since a 2-0 loss in Switzerland in September 2016.

Yet even us fans of the most Portuguese of persuasions will know they were fortunate to still be on level terms after one of the most one-sided first halves you will ever see.

The UEFA Nations League 2018 highlights package regularly recorded Rui Patricio who denied Lorenzo Insigne early on before Ciro Immobile fired the rebound over.

Alessandro Florenzi drove just wide, Wolves keeper Patricio then denied Immobile again and even centre-back Leonardo Bonucci – jeered by home fans for leaving Milan after just one season – found the side netting as the Italians dominated chance-wise and territorially.

Such was their dominance that AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (who is hard to forget is still a teenager) was largely a spectator as he won his 11th cap in his home stadium.

Giorgio Chiellini’s experience as a veteran Italian players is not enough to beat Portugal in UEFA Nations League clash

Giorgio Chiellini and Andre Silva fights for the ball

So was Giorgio Chiellini as he celebrated his 100th senior Italy cap – precisely 14 years to the day since his debut against Finland.

They were hoping to keep out the ‘Silva’ Portuguese attacking duo of Bernardo Silva and Milan-owned Andre Silva who scored the only goal when these sides met in September.

Indeed, from the first whistle, it was easy to see why excitement is building in Italy over the style and longevity the ‘mister’ is focusing on.

The control they had was further highlighted by the fact Ruben Neves and Napoli full-back Mario Rui were booked and will be suspended against Poland on Tuesday night.

Yet for all of Patricio’s brilliance, it was clear to see why Italy have only scored 11 goals in their last 15 games.

They knew they had to win to keep their chances alive and initially began the second half as they had played the first.

Immobile has fired blanks in his last eight international appearances, and Insigne continued to lead the line with energy. Federico Chiesa’s first-time shot was deflected away when it seemed destined for the net, and Nicolo Barella saw a volley blocked. Despite continuing to dominate possession, the chances weren’t arriving for the Italians with such regularity as they had in the opening 45 minutes.

Naturally unable to maintain their first-half tempo, Portugal pushed themselves.

Joao Mario fired over the bar, and then the virtually redundant Donnarumma pushed away a William Carvalho ‘daisy-cutter’.

Slowly but surely, for the first time all night, the UEFA Nations League 2018 odds looked like they were heading in favour of the visiting side.

Slowly but surely, Portugal came more into the game and looked like a side unbeaten on their competitive travels for over two years.

Insigne fired just wide from distance, and substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini headed straight at Patricio but Italy, whose last six home matches have been stalemates, could not find a breakthrough.

Portugal held on – perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they’re European Champions.

Key statistics

Italy’s home run of six successive draws is now the country’s longest winless streak in the Peninsula since 1923-25.

They all finished 1-1 (Ukraine, Poland, Netherlands, Macedonia) save for a 0-0 draw (the World Cup play-off with Sweden at San Siro in November 2017).

The Azzurri last lost in Milan 27 games and 93 years ago.

Chiellini has become only the seventh player to reach 100 Italy caps.

Chiellini and Bonucci were the only players in the Italy starting XI aged over 30.

The only time Italy have managed to score more than once during the past six months was Roberto Mancini’s debut in charge, a 2-1 friendly over Saudi Arabia in May.

Portugal had lost their only four previous trips to Milan (in 1929, 1957, 1987 and 1993).

The latter game, a 1-0 Italy success in November 1993, saw Mancini come off the bench for the side, then managed by Arrigo Sacchi, who would go onto reach the World Cup Final the following summer.

Top of Form

What’s next?

Italy round off their 2018 with a home friendly against the USA on Tuesday (November 20).

Portugal complete their group campaign by entertaining Poland in Guimaraes at the same time.

 

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UEFA Nations League: An All-Important Match for the Top Spot!

Italy vs Portugal

Portugal already have one hand on the top spot of Group A3 in the UEFA Nations League, but the fight isn’t over yet as Italy still have a chance—albeit slim—of toppling them from the summit.

The Portuguese need only a draw at the San Siro to secure their place in the tournament final. However, an Italy home win will see the Azzurri go no.1 and leave Portugal needing a victory against Poland in the final game of the group stage.

Italy, of course, will be determined to get all three points and boost their chances of winning another international silverware. After all, their players are hungrier than ever after missing last summer’s World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

Talking Points

Where’s Ronny?

Unarguably one of the best football players in the world right now, Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t join the Portugal squad in the opening games of the tournament. The nation’s top scorer opted to stay with his new team, Juventus, as he adapts to his new environment.

Nevertheless, there were reports that Ronaldo could re-join the reigning European champions in this game, considering that it will be held in Italy where he is currently plying his trade.

Unfortunately, the 33-year-old striker was once again omitted from Fernando Santos’ squad—with the latest reports claiming that he will return to international duty next year.

While the Portuguese could do without their talisman, as they have proven in their past two games, there’s no doubt that his presence would have been a welcome boost to the team.

To recall, Portugal won over the Italians, albeit by just one goal. The Azzurri held them for the most part as their usual deadly attack was nowhere to be found.

Ronaldo, for his part, has already hit nine goals and made five assists for the Bianconeri this 2018-19 campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be once again absent from international duty as they face Italy in the UEFA Nations League

Cristiano Ronaldo in action during Juventus’ game against AC Milan in the Serie A

With the absence of the so-called CR7, Portugal are likely to lean on the “Silvas” to spark the nation’s frontline. Sevilla striker Andre Silva grabbed the UEFA Nations League 2018 highlights when he scored the winner against Italy, and he followed it up with an equaliser against Poland.

On the other hand, Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva was also on target against the Poles to help keep Portugal undefeated in the competition.

Old and new faces combine in Italy

Italy will also be without a “renowned” player, but it’s a player of a different level in a whole different situation.

Controversial striker Mario Balotelli, who made his return to international duty against Saudi Arabia last March, was not included in Roberto Mancini’s latest squad. The 28-year-old OGC Nice forward has been struggling for form and looked out of sorts in their September encounter with Poland.

Balotelli wasn’t part of the team that played against Ukraine and Poland in October, and Mancini remained firm with his decision as he excluded the player again.

The new Italy boss, however, continues his rebuild and focuses on youth this time. Mancini called up three new players for this crucial match, headed by teenage sensation Sandro Tonali.

Tonali, who is playing as a midfielder for Serie B outfit Brescia, has often drawn comparisons to Serie A legend Andre Pirlo for his look and playing style. And his passing and ability to dictate the tempo of the game will be valuable additions to the team.

Besides the 18-year-old rising star, Sassuolo midfielder Stefano Sensi and Hoffenheim forward Vincenzo Grifo have also been named to the Italy international team.

The three players are expected to complement and provide much-needed depth behind the likes of Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Giorgio Chiellini who are expected to lead the team’s attempt to get to the top.

History

It’s safe to say Italy have history on their side. Out of their 26 meetings overall, Italy have won 18 times and lost just six, with the other two ending in a draw.

In fact, the Azzurri have once gone on a six-game winning streak against the Portuguese from 1993 to 2008.

Nevertheless, while that may be the case, Portugal have the present. In their two meetings at the turn of 2010, the Navigators won in both occasions by a 1-0 scoreline.

The two nations are also far from each other in the FIFA rankings. Portugal are the seventh best team in the world right now, while Italy are currently 19th—a slight improvement from their 20th place before the World Cup.

Betting Tip

??
Italy vs Portugal Portugal 1X2 @ 3.20
November 18, 03:45 (GMT+8)

Italy are always hard to beat at home. They last lost on their turf in 2016, against France, so it’s not that startling to see the UEFA Nations League 2018 odds at us swinging in their favour.

Despite that though, I doubt Santos’ charges will let loose of their grip on the top spot. They know they need to score only one and defend throughout to ensure their place, and I think that is what’s going to happen here.

I’m not counting out a draw too, but I do think Portugal have a slight edge.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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