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Oct 8, 2021 at 1.30am UK
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Preview: Ecuador vs. Bolivia - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Ecuador vs. Bolivia - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Friday's World Cup Qualifying - South America clash between Ecuador and Bolivia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Now entering the second half of the South American World Cup Qualifying process, fourth-placed Ecuador and struggling Bolivia meet in Guayaquil on Friday.

Just inside the automatic qualification places at the midway point, the hosts welcome their Andean counterparts to Estadio Monumental having won only one of their last five matches in the CONMEBOL section.

Match preview

Since slumping out of the Copa America at the quarter-final stage during the summer, Ecuador have gone on to post a series of mixed results in their attempt to reach Qatar 2022.

After they started off splendidly along the road to the Middle East - including a remarkable 6-1 thumping of Colombia last year - La Tri started to falter a little, and are now embroiled in a battle with Paraguay, Uruguay and the Colombians for two probable remaining qualification spots behind traditional giants Brazil and Argentina.

Gustavo Alfaro's side went into the Copa - during which they failed to win a single game - following successive defeats to Brazil and Peru. Since the continental finals, in the previous international period last month, they at least managed to pick up a further four points from three outings to keep them in the hunt.

A couple of late goals helped Ecuador see off Paraguay on home turf, before playing out a creditable goalless draw with Chile, even though they were down to 10 men for the final half-hour.

Seeking to seal qualification for just the fourth time in the nation's history, Alfaro's men then pushed Uruguay all the way in Montevideo, before being stung by a stoppage time winner for the hosts from Gaston Pereiro.

Ahead of Bolivia's visit, that result leaves them locked together on points with Colombia and trailing the Uruguayans by two points, so they simply must now take three points from one of South America's lowliest national sides.

Last time out in World Cup qualifying, Bolivia succumbed to the wizardry of a football genius, as they were beaten 3-0 by Lionel Messi's Argentina.

The former Barcelona star scored a hat-trick against La Verde to move above Pele as South America's top international goalscorer with 79 goals; netting the opener in Buenos Aires by bewildering the Bolivian defence and curling the ball home from just outside the box, then adding two more to his tally.

While losing away to the Albiceleste - currently continental champions - brings no shame for any side, their latest loss sees the team managed by Cesar Farias just one place and two points from the foot of the table and out of contention for a return to the global finals. Having been unable to replicate their famous jaunt to USA '94 in the three decades since, Bolivia are now playing for pride rather than potential qualification for Qatar.

Though they travel to Guayaquil in their customary role as underdogs, they may be emboldened in their efforts to take a point by recalling their home fixture with the Ecuadorians last November, in which the sides were locked at 2-2 until an 88th-minute Carlos Gruezo penalty cruelly denied them a draw.

After losing each of their matches at the Copa America, though, then registering just a solitary point from September's qualifiers, this week Bolivia will rely more on hope than expectation.

Ecuador World Cup Qualifying - South America form:
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • L

Ecuador form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • L

Bolivia World Cup Qualifying - South America form:
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L

Bolivia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L

Team News

In preparation for the visit of Bolivia, plus upcoming games against Venezuela and Colombia, head coach Gustavo Alfaro has called upon an Ecuador squad drawn from far and wide, rather than the traditionally dominant domestic sides, Barcelona SC and Emelec.

The latest new face in the Tricolor's setup is Jeremy Sarmiento, a winger from Premier League club Brighton. Born to Ecuadorian parents living in Madrid and having partly grown up in London, the teenager is included for the first time, after previously turning down overtures to represent the Under-20s.

While the highly-rated youngster is unlikely to start, qualifying top scorer Michael Estrada (four goals) of Toluca is set to feature in a front two for the hosts, accompanied by Gonzalo Plata (three), though the experienced Enner Valencia is also available if required.

Meanwhile, Robert Arboleda and Villarreal full-back Pervis Estupinian are lynchpins of the Ecuador defence and should also expect to start on Friday.

Remarkably, Bolivia opted to call up a staggering 53 players for their training camp ahead of this month's international triple-header, but many were young hopefuls included for experience rather than as serious contenders to play.

As ever, captain Marcelo Moreno will lead the line for the visitors - with 27 goals, the Cruzeiro striker is the nation's all-time top scorer - while Velez Sarsfield goalkeeper Carlos Lampe will be charged with repelling the potent Ecuador attack.

Ecuador possible starting lineup:
Ortiz; Hurtado, Arboleda, Hincapie; Estupinan, Cifuentes, Gruezo, Caicedo, Castillo; Estrada, Plata

Bolivia possible starting lineup:
Lampe; Bejarano, Haquin, Jusino, Fernandez; Justiniano, Villarroel; Chura, Arce, Ramallo; Moreno

We say: Ecuador 3-1 Bolivia

While the home side have found this year more challenging than their productive 2020, they still pose too much of an attacking threat for a Bolivia side that does not travel well.

Therefore, Ecuador should coast to an important three points; keeping them in the qualification mix before tougher tests to come, in Venezuela and Colombia.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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