Portugal vs. Serbia: Team News, Predicted Line-Ups, Live Stream & TV Info – Bleacher Report
Portugal can reclaim their place atop Group I in Euro 2016 qualification on Sunday when they’ll come up against a Serbia team hoping to cause an upset in Lisbon.
Every team in Group I has suffered defeat already in their qualifying campaign, but the Serbians currently sit five points below Portugal after being deducted three points following the controversial fights that erupted against Albania in October.
Fernando Santos’ men will be hoping to pile further misery on their Sunday opponents, with all the vital viewing information, team news and predicted formations discussed in further detail ahead.
Date: Sunday, March 29
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
Live Stream: Sky Go (UK), ESPN Watch (US)
TV Info: Sky Sports 2 (UK), ESPN Deportes (US)
Santos’ hosts have been buoyed by the return to training of Real Madrid defender Pepe this week, with the centre-back likely to partner Bruno Alves in defence this weekend.
Spanish newspaper AS reported on Thursday that Pepe is still training “on the margins,” but he should be fit for an international return and start on Sunday:
Pepe still training on the margins with Portugal http://t.co/8mQdyBt5Yt http://t.co/qmApbEIgW7
Santos himself received a boost this past week, too, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport halved the manager’s eight-match touchline ban relating to unsportsmanlike conduct shown toward a match official at last year’s World Cup.
Then coach of Greece, Santos will now serve a four-match ban at Portugal’s helm with two matches suspended, per Peter Hanson of Goal.com, but will still be away from his team during Sunday’s encounter.
Rui Patricio; Cedric, Eliseu, Pepe, Bruno Alves; Joao Moutinho, Tiago, William Carvalho; Danny, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo
Vladimir Stojkovic; Branislav Ivanovic, Dusko Tosic, Matija Nastasic, Nikola Maksimovic; Nemanja Matic, Nemanja Gudelj; Zoran Tosic, Dusan Tadic, Adem Ljajic; Aleksandar Mitrovic
It’s only natural that Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo will account for a wealth of the attention at the Estadio da Luz this weekend, but William Carvalho will again be one to watch as an emerging asset for the Portuguese.
The tough-tackling Sporting Lisbon anchor, should he start, is likely to come up against Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic in a fight for midfield dominance.
Carvalho was this week quoted by Soccerway as laying down a marker of intent in the build-up to Sunday’s encounter, looking to take the fight to Serbia from the beginning:
We are aware that if we win it will be an important step, but after this game we still have more games. We must continue to work to guarantee victory.
We have seen the videos of Serbia’s games and the movements of the players, so we have an idea [of how they will play]. We know they have excellent players, but if we impose our game I am sure that the victory will be assured.
Blues star Matic certainly ranks among those excellent players and has the potential to disrupt any home momentum this weekend as Serbia go in search of their first group win.
He’ll be one of the talismans manager Radovan Curcic expects to take the fight to their Lisbon hosts, with Joao Moutinho’s influence something Matic will be seeking to restrict.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Branislav Ivanovic
Ronaldo’s responsibility as a floating presence among Portugal’s forward line is likely to take him into contact with just about every visiting defender, but Branislav Ivanovic may be one the Real Madrid star will look to avoid.
The two are preparing for a potentially explosive captain versus captain head-to-head that could dictate a lot of the fixture’s sway, and Ivanovic is under no illusions about the threat coming his way, speaking to Perform (h/t Goal’s Russell Greaves):
You’re speaking about one of the best players in the history of football, he’s not so easy. To be on the top level you have to prove yourself every day, he’s doing that game by game. He is the guy who knows how to deal with the pressure, for us it will be a big challenge and I hope and I know we have the quality to try to deal with that.
After drawing with Armenia and losing at home to Denmark, Serbia are undoubtedly underdogs coming to Lisbon, but the travelling players will receive a huge boost if Ronaldo can be quelled in any shape.
It’s an unenviable task, but as Serbia’s most talented defender, all eyes will fall on Ivanovic as the most likely man to accomplish that goal and, in turn, twist the tie in their favour.
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