Serbia host Portugal in a pivotal match in the European Championship qualifications, kicking off in Belgrade on Saturday night, at 8:45pm local time. Portugal are the defending champions, but have their work cut out in order to progress to the finals next summer.
Home Team: Serbia
Serbia have managed to qualify for the World Cup in 2010, and in 2018, but haven’t qualified for the European Championships since being an independent nation. Serbia did win their UEFA Nations League group last year, meaning if they fail to progress automatically from the group by finishing in the top two, they have the safety net of a play-off. However, a top two spot is not beyond their reach just yet. They opened up their campaign with a credible draw in Portugal, with Dusan Tadic scoring an early penalty in a 1-1 draw.
Following that match, they were up against other qualification candidates Ukraine, and it went disastrously wrong, as they lost 5-0 away. They reacted with a 4-1 home win against Lithuania which currently leaves them 3rd in the table. Strikers Aleksandar Mitrović and Luka Jović, who have an average age of 22.5, look to spearhead the attack of Serbia for the next decade, and will hope to pose a threat to Portugal’s back line on Saturday.[geot exclude_country="US" ][/geot]
Away Team: Portugal
Portugal are the defending European Champions, and validated that success by also winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League this past summer when they hosted it. Despite their trophy winning record in the last three years, they have started their qualification for next summer’s tournament in sloppy fashion, by failing to beat Ukraine and Serbia at home in their first two matches. They still have a lot of football to play – six matches in total, to try and turn this around and get in those top two positions.
Failing that, they do have a play-off place guaranteed due to their UEFA Nations League success. Captain Ronaldo remains the obvious key player for Portugal, who also have the likes of Bernardo Silva and Joao Felix to support him in a menacing attack. Portugal have many strong players across the pitch, and will hope their combination of quality and determination will carry them through to the tournament next summer.
Head to Head
Portugal and Serbia have met each other five times in their history, with three of them ending in draws, and Portugal winning on two occasions. Despite Serbia not beating Portugal in five attempts, they have been the underdogs in each clash and have given Portugal really tough matches. There has only been two score lines in this fixture, and they have been either a 1-1 draw, or a narrow 2-1 victory for Portugal. The Portuguese have visited Serbia twice in their history, drawing 1-1 back in 2007, and then winning 2-1 more recently in 2015.
My Predictions and Betting Tips
Serbia are at 5/2 to win, with Portugal slight favourites at 6/5. For the sides to share the spoils, that is at 21/10. History suggests it will be a tight game, and with Serbia having a hostile atmosphere, they will fancy themselves getting a shock victory here.
Having said that, the odds of Portugal winning are quite favourable, and I’d back them to win via a 2-1 score line at 17/2. Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to get a goal at any time (10/11), but to boost your odds, you can back him and Goncalo Guedes to score at 8/1. For the hosts, Luka Jović would be my tip at 11/8. Both teams have scored in all the previous meetings between the two nations, and they are at 10/11 to repeat that.
Finally, for the tipsters, the real money can be won by backing either team to win from behind, with Serbia priced at 18/1, or Portugal at 12/1.[geot exclude_country="US" ][/geot]