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Preview: Portugal vs. Serbia - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Portugal vs. Serbia - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Portugal and Serbia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Portugal will welcome Serbia to Lisbon on Sunday night needing to avoid defeat in order to top Group A and secure their position at the 2022 World Cup.

Fernando Santos's side will enter the contest off the back of a goalless draw with the Republic of Ireland, which moved them above Serbia to the top of the section, meaning that the visitors will need to win on Sunday if they are to snatch first position and claim an automatic qualification spot at next year's finals.

Match preview

Portugal's clash with the Republic of Ireland on Thursday evening was far from a classic, but Santos's side secured the point that they needed to move above Serbia to the top of the section, and they are in pole position for the only automatic qualification spot, needing only to avoid defeat to finish first.

A record of five wins and two draws has seen A Selecao collect 17 points, while they have scored 16 times and conceded just four during a successful qualification campaign to date.

Santos's team are actually unbeaten in World Cup qualification matches since September 2016, while they will bring a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions into Sunday's key fixture in Lisbon.

Portugal have enjoyed recent success in the European Championship, winning the competition in 2016, in addition to making the final in 2004 and semi-finals in both 2000 and 2012.

However, they have found it difficult to seriously impress at the World Cup since finishing fourth in 2006, having been knocked out in the group stage of the 2014 competition, in addition to only reaching the round of 16 in both 2010 and 2018.

Serbia will believe that they are more than capable of winning on Sunday, and the Eagles were only in friendly action on Thursday, recording a 4-0 victory over Qatar, with their last competitive fixture being the 3-1 home success against Azerbaijan on October 12.

Dragan Stojkovic's will be desperate to avoid second, which only brings a playoff spot, and they have won four of their five matches in the section since playing out a 2-2 draw with Portugal at the end of March.

Serbia did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup but were present at the finals in 2018, being eliminated in the group stage of the competition, winning just one of their three matches.

The Eagles also surprisingly failed to qualify for Euro 2020, but they are a team to be taken extremely seriously at this level of football due to the quality in their squad, particularly in the forward areas.

In the reverse match back in March, meanwhile, Serbia recovered from a two-goal deficit to claim a point, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Filip Kostic on the scoresheet in Belgrade.

Portugal World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Portugal form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Serbia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Serbia form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Bernardo Silva missed out for Portugal against the Republic of Ireland due to a muscular issue, but the Manchester City attacker will be back in the starting XI for this match.

Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Diogo Jota were unused substitutes on Thursday but will return here, while Joao Moutinho is pushing to be involved in central midfield.

Portugal will be without the services of Pepe, though, following his red card against ROI, so there could be another start in the middle of the back four for Danilo Pereira, although Jose Fonte is another option.

Nuno Mendes could also come into the side at left-back, having been suspended last time out, which is likely to mean that both Nelson Semedo and Diogo Dalot will drop out of the side.

As for Serbia, there will be a number of changes from the side that started the friendly win over Qatar, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Vlahovic, Nemanja Gudelj, Dusasn Tadic and Nikola Milenkovic among those expected to come into the starting XI.

Vlahovic, who is currently one of the most in-demand strikers in European football, should be joined by Mitrovic in the final third of the field, with Tadic expected to operate in a slighter deeper area.

Matija Nastastic, Marko Petkovic, Filip Djuricic and Darko Lazovic have all been forced to pull out of the squad through injury, but the visitors have no fresh injury concerns heading into the contest.

Portugal possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Cancelo, Danilo, Dias, Mendes; Fernandes, Palhinha, Moutinho; B Silva, Ronaldo, Jota

Serbia possible starting lineup:
Rajkovic; Milenkovic, S Mitrovic, Pavlovic; Radonjic, Milinkovic-Savic, Gudelj, Kostic; Tadic; A Mitrovic, Vlahovic

We say: Portugal 1-1 Serbia

This has all of the makings of a terrific game of football, and it will be fascinating to see what occurs in Lisbon. Portugal cannot afford to simply play for a point against a talented Serbia, but we can see this match finishing level, with Santos's team advancing to the World Cup and Serbia having to accept a playoff spot.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 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.Over 1.5:data

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