A prediction of Portugal's upcoming squad for clashes with Scotland and Poland
It's that time again as Seleção fans across the globe attempt to second guess the thinking of the man with all the answers - Fernando Santos.
Will embedding youth and young blood once again be on the agenda? Will old faces like Jose Fonte, Ricardo Quaresma and João Moutinho make a return? Who will get the nod in a midfield stacked with talent? We take a look, and make a prediction, here.
It should be pointed out that the quest of predicting Santos' side is made even more difficult by the fact that this couple of fixtures constitute a friendly fixture, and a tournament match that, right now, has the reputation of being little more than that. This means that Santos will likely continue to experiment, while also rewarding in form players, making the task of predicting his upcoming 20-something man squad all the more difficult.
It also means that, if the likes of Moutinho, Jose Fonte and Quaresma are left out again, there is no reason not to think that they will be included again further down the line. In any case, here is a prediction of the squad, and a rating out of 10 for how much certainty there is that each particular person will be included, with 10 representing the most confidence and a virtual guarantee of a call-up.
Rui Patricio - 10/10
Guaranteed to be in the squad. Will only be excluded with an injury which, at this point, seems virtually impossible.
Beto - 8/10
A mainstay in Portugal's squad at the moment. Been in good form in Turkey too. Highly likely he'll be called up yet again.
Anthony Lopes - 6/10
Missed out on the last squad in favour of Tondela's Claudio Ramos. Likely a straight shootout between the two to see who gets the last space. Good chance the Lyon keeper will be put back in the side though having also performed well for Lyon. Helped his French side to that impressive away victory against Manchester City in the Champions League, and has been everpresent in the league too, where Lyon sit fifth. Likely he'll return.
No doubt that Pepe will be in the squad, and starting against Poland as well. One of Portugal's most important players.
Ruben Dias - 10/10
Benfica's young centreback also virtually guaranteed a spot in the squad and in the starting lineup. Has forged a very solid partnership with Pepe.
Jose Fonte - 8/10
He missed out on the last squad and many thought - and still think - that it was the start of a new dawn for Portugal as Santos looks to embed younger options in the centre of defence. But Jose Fonte has been exceptional this season, playing almost every single one of Lille's matches in the league campaign who, with a substantial contingent of Portuguese footballers, sit 2nd in Ligue 1, only behind big-spenders PSG. An impressive achievement for a side that finished just a solitary point above the relegation zone last season. Fonte has been a revelation since returning to Europe and is deserving of a callup, which I expect him to get.
Daniel Carriço - 5/10
Difficult to call the final centreback spot. Luis Neto, Pedro Mendes, Ruben Vezo and Bruno Alves all other potential call-ups for Santos' side, so it's something of a stab in the dark to choose the fourth-choice central defender. Carriço has only played for Portugal once - in May 2015 - and that's despite now being 30 and the vice-captain of Sevilla. But, currently injury free - which is sadly less common than one would like - and playing very regularly for his Spanish club, he's got as good a chance as any of the other options to make the squad.
João Cancelo - 9/10
Almost a certainty to be called up. The only reason there isn't even more confidence that he'll definitely have his place in the squad is due to Portugal having an abundance of talent at right back, with Barcelona's Nelson Semedo - who has played quite substantially for the La Liga giants this season - and Leicester's Ricardo Pereira two other highly talented options for Fernando Santos to choose from. But you can be exceptionally confident that the former Benfica and Valencia right back will be included - and involved - in the latest Seleção action.
Cedric Soares - 8/10
As previously mentioned, despite having an embarrassment of riches at the right side of defence, with both Nelson and Ricardo truly excellent options, it's still expected that the second right back in the squad will be Southampton's Cedric Soares. Despite Southampton not being overly impressive domestically, Cedric's been a solid performer and is a player Fernando Santos clearly trusts. Expect him to be included ahead of the others. Just.
Mario Rui - 10/10
A year ago to the day, the mere suggestion that Mario Rui was guaranteed an inclusion in the Portugal squad would have been somewhat baffling to say the least. But, with Coentrão now at boyhood club Rio Ave and Guerreiro a constant question mark due to his unfortunate injury record, he is a certainty.
Raphael Guerreiro - 7/10
And while Guerreiro's injuries are a real concern, his inclusion would by no means come as a shock. In stark contrast to the strength in depth on show at right back, Portugal have no such luxury on the left, with Antunes, Coentrão and perhaps even young Ruben Vinagre the other most likely options to Fernando Santos. Guerreiro's inclusion is certainly not a certainty, although it is widely anticipated.
Ruben Neves - 9/10
He didn't make the World Cup squad, but Neves' involvement in the upcoming fixtures is likely the most assured of all the central midfielders. With Danilo Pereira only having just come off a lengthy spell on the touchline with a long-term injury and William Carvalho having been absent for the past couple of weeks with an injury of his own, Neves seems to face a place secured for the upcoming games - and is in contention to start.
William Carvalho - 8/10
Despite having had a short-term injury recently, Carvalho it's still fully expected to be involved in the action against Poland and, perhaps, Scotland too. So important to Portugal is he that he almost always starts, and plays the entirety of the game, be it a competitive fixture or a friendly.
Pizzi - 8/10
Another player that didn't make the World Cup squad but is surely exceptionally confident to be involved in the action this time around, as he was in the most recent couple of international fixtures. One such game, played on 10th September, was for the UEFA Nations League against Italy, where he got the assist that earned Portugal an important 1-0 victory. His form for Benfica means that his absence would be something of a crime.
João Moutinho - 8/10
Moutinho was, quite surprisingly, left out of the last Portugal squad. It raised some eyebrows and, with it, a few suspicions that this could be the beginning of the end for Moutinho's international career. But, while his omission was a nod to the future, with Gedson Fernandes included instead, there is no doubt at all that Moutinho will still be involved for Portugal in the coming years and, having performed to such a high standard in the Premier League with Wolves - as he always has done - there really is no reason for him to be overlooked again, unless he is rested. If this were a qualifier for a major tournament, he would definitely be included, with the most minimal doubt about it. Because it's only a UEFA Nations League game, there's a little bit more doubt, but Santos will likely want to test the Neves-Moutinho partnership out for himself.
Bruno Fernandes - 7/10
It seems strange to give Bruno Fernandes *only* a 7 with regards to the likelihood of his inclusion; after stunning the Sporting faithful with magestic performances last season, Bruno cemented himself as one of Portugal's most technically gifted central midfielders around. But having had a solid but rather less successful campaign so far this time around, Santos may consider giving someone else a chance. In any case, his inclusion is very much expected, but not as certain as it has been for the past 9-12 months.
Renato Sanches - 7/10
Things are looking up for Renato. Having made the last Portugal squad, he made a return to the Estadio da Luz to take on Benfica to remember as he found the back of the net for Bayern Munich in the Champions League, while also being rewarded with much more substantial game time than he was afforded the seasons before. His including is highly probable, particularly considering he's now getting a good level is game time.
Danilo Pereira - 6/10
Make no mistake that Danilo Pereira will be in and around not just the squad but the starting lineup for Portugal for many years to come. Surely one of the first names included in Fernando Santos' squad list alongside the likes of Ronaldo, Pepe, Patricio and his positional rival William Carvalho, Danilo's inclusion in the upcoming season is only in substantial doubt due to the long-term injury he's been suffering from, and therefore the lack of game time he's had over the last 6 or so months. We still predict him to make the squad, but not with huge confidence.
Bernardo Silva - 10/10
Not much has to be says about Bernardo. His name will be at the very top of Fernando Santos' shortlist, and his inclusion - bar an injury I'm the upcoming Champions League match - is guaranteed.
Andre Silva - 10/10
Let's make no mistake. As one of the only - if not the only - out and out strikers playing in one of the very top divisions in continental football, Silva is practically unrivalled, and will maintain his place in the squad and regularly in the starting lineup for as long as that continues. That, added to his outstanding form, makes him a certainty.
Gonçalo Guedes - 9/10
Guedes was called up to both the World Cup and the couple of international fixtures from last month, and he seems assured of a place in the squad this time around too. Having really stepped up his career since joining Valencia - initially on loan - he'll likely go on and have another impressive campaign this time around too.
Cristiano Ronaldo - 7/10
It seems strange to have such relatively little confidence in Portugal's captain - and talisman - getting a callup, although it is justified. Having been left out last month to allow him to continue to train with Juventus and build up fitness, there's every chance the same thing could happen again. Ronaldo will no doubt return for the qualifiers to major competitions, but whether he'll get called up this time is far less certain. We still think he'll join up with the national team, even if not fully convinced.
Gelson Martins - 7/10
Gelson Martins has had a fairly frustrating time at Atletico Madrid so far since joining the club in the summer. Always seemingly used as a substitute, Martins is generally only given 15 or so minutes per game to make an impact. Whether Santos will choose him as a result is another matter, with several alternatives in with a shout.
Bruma - 6/10
One such player that will feel he's done enough to get another call-up is Leipzig's Bruma. The winger was included in Santos' squad last month and was impressive in the friendly clash with Croatia, but he's got a lot of competition on the flanks. The likes of Ricardo Quaresma, Nani and Rafa will all fancy themselves get another chance with the national team, while Wolves' Helder Costa could also have an outside chance. But Bruma is likely to get the nod ahead of them all.
What do you think of the selection? Did we miss anyone out? Or include someone you don't think merits a call-up? Have your say!