Potential Portugal XI to face Lithuania
Portugal are in Vilnius as they get ready to face Lithuania in their fourth Euro 2020 qualifying fixture, and nothing short of a victory heading into the match will satisfy an expecting nation back home.
With Portugal as comfortable favourites against the side who currently sit bottom of the qualifying group with just 1 point from 4 games so far, you can expect Fernando Santos to rotate his side for the match, and some patient debutants may finally get their run-out too.
Of course, this is still a competitive fixture, meaning that professionalism must be maintained and therefore some key players will almost certainly remain in the team. It does mean, of course, that predicting Portugal’s starting eleven really is not an easy task.
In goal, for example, do not be particularly shocked if Rui Patricio were to start in between the sticks yet again, a chance for him to extend his record of most international caps for a goalkeeper further. Equally, however, Beto could also be given a starting berth, Portugal’s current number two, while handing Jose Sa his debut appearance for the senior national team is also certainly feasible.
Handing a goalkeeper his debut in a competitive match, though, even if it is against relative minnows, seems unlikely, particularly with Fernando Santos as manager, so we tentatively predict Rui Patricio to be the keeper of choice.
At right back, there is little doubt: Joao Cancelo will be the man chosen in that position, with Nelson Semedo having picked up an injury an hour into Portugal’s clash with Serbia on Saturday.
Meanwhile, at centreback, it is also more difficult to call. With Pepe out injured, Portugal’s first two choices - Jose Fonte and Ruben Dias - started the last match in Belgrade, with Daniel Carrico on the bench. Ferro, who was called up to Portugal’s 25-man squad, was then one of the two players left out of Portugal’s match day squad completely.
It perhaps seems likely that one of Fonte or Dias will be dropped to give one of Carrico or Ferro a chance, Carrico, despite now being 31, having only represented his country at senior level once, while Ferro is yet to play for Portugal’s main team at all. If there is to be rotation at centreback, the new pairing is perhaps likely to be one of the following: Fonte and Ferro, or Carrico and Dias.
Since Ferro was left out of the last squad completely, and since Fonte is much older than Dias and is therefore more likely to be in need of rest to be fully ready to return to club football after the international break ends, I would guess that it would be Ruben Dias and Daniel Carrico to play in the heart of Portugal’s defence in Lithuania should Santos opt for a subtle change in defence.
And for the final position along the backline, left back, I would expect Raphael Guerreiro to play ahead of Mario Rui. Guerreiro had a decent games against Serbia, and was much better going forwards than defensively, which would suit him against Lithuania, so don’t be shocked if Guerreiro maintains his place in the lineup. At the same time though, Mario Rui is also a high quality left back, so it is quite feasible that he comes into the side on Tuesday.
In midfield, it seems safe to say that Danilo Pereira won’t play in this one, having struggled in the match versus Serbia. Portugal perhaps don’t need an out-and-out defensive midfielder against Lithuania, though this is Fernando Santos, so it isn’t a foregone conclusion that he won’t utilise one anyway. Ruben Neves is therefore a possibility to play for Portugal instead of Danilo, the Wolves man a more than suitable replacement should Santos select him.
However, looking back at Portugal’s meetings with the Faroe Islands for the World Cup 2018 qualifiers, Santos chose to play William Carvalho and Andre Gomes in midfield in the first meeting, which finished 0-6 to Portugal, and William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho in the second meeting, which finished 5-1 to Portugal. None of those three play as out-and-out defensive midfielders in Santos’ system, which shows that he may do the same again this time around and simply not play a full defensive minded player in the middle of the park. One thing seems fairly likely though: William Carvalho to maintain his side in the Portugal lineup. He is seen as a critical player in Santos’ plans, and in important matches, he is almost certainly one of the first names on the team sheet.
Alongside Carvalho, we may see Renato Sanches get a game, his energy making him a perfect addition to the team to play alongside the slower, elegant William Carvalho in central midfield should Portugal opt to play a fluid 4-4-2 for this match.
If that were to be the formation, you can expect Portugal to play with two very attacking wingers for this match to really take advantage of the lesser opposition. Bernardo Silva is likely to maintain his place in the side on the right wing, while we could see the pacey Rafa Silva introduced on the left, his form for Benfica meaning that he more than merits a place in the Portugal lineup.
And finally, we come to the forward duo. Portugal have a lot of options here to play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, who seems almost a certainty to start. The likes of Daniel Podence, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Goncalo Guedes can all fulfil that role, alongside Rafa Silva. So it isn’t easy to determine exactly who Fernando Santos will select of all those options. As a prediction, though, it seems likely to be one of Felix or Jota. Guedes started the last match, so is perhaps less likely to start this one too, while Podence wasn’t even in the match day squad versus Serbia. That leaves Felix and Jota.
Both are likely to feature at least in part of the match with Lithuania, though this seems like a great moment to give Ronaldo and Felix a chance to play alongside each other. Therefore, we predict Joao Felix to also start, with Diogo Jota to come on, off the bench.
Potential Portugal XI: Rui Patricio - Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Daniel Carrico, Raphael Guerreiro - William Carvalho, Renato Sanches, Bernardo Silva, Rafa Silva - Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix.