UEFA Nations League - Day One
The second installment of UEFA's new project takes place this week, with the international break arriving the newly formed Nations League resumes play. The governing bodies have constructed this new model in an attempted to replace traditional friendly matches, with the hope of more meaningful fixtures for all the European nations involved.
There are a total of 55 countries taking part in this tournament format, with groups being separated based on their current International rankings, along with size and population to round out the remaining field. The opportunity for teams to be promoted and relegated are also being implemented, with the ultimate goal of playing for the inaugural championship next summer, giving each side involved true competition as they prepare for another grueling four years of World Cup qualifications.
21404 Poland vs 21405 Portugal
Stadion Slaski, Chorzów, Poland
10-11-2018 - 2:45 pm ET
Match day one features an excellent Group three pairing, when two World Cup participants cross-paths for the first time since the 2016 Euro's, this should be another great test of their overall status on the international stage.
Poland got off to an ideal start during their first Nations League contest, traveling to Italy and claiming a hard fought draw against a talented "Azurri" squad, and placing themselves in an ideal spot to challenge for a top spot in the table.
Newly appointed manager Jerzy Brzęczek was brought into replace Adam Nawalka, whose contract was not renewed after a dreadful showing this Summer in Russia. Nawalka had taken this once under-performing country back to the World Cup after a twelve year absence, but with expectations at an all-time high, the veteran head-man was passed on for a younger voice along the side-lines.
The 'Eagles' are structured around their world-class center-forward, with Bayern Munich man Robert Lewandowski still the main vocal point in attack. Lewandowski continues to set records each time he hits the back of the net for his country, currently the all-time leading goal scoring with 55 to his name, the Polish danger-man has been placed in a classic 4-4-1-1 alignment under Brzęczek, with young upstart Piotr Zielinski being positioned strategically behind him to provide both creativity when moving forward in attack, while also being able to finish the final product when his opportunities arise.
The national team seems to have adjusted well too the new formation, with their new shape set-up to offer a steady balance on both the offensive, and defensive side of the pitch. The Eagles will ultimately benefit from having plenty of support on the back-end to help eliminate potential treats on goal, while also being able to have a nice amount of possession, in order to create the best available shots on target.
The Group three representatives have true quality laced throughout their starting eleven, with Kamil Glik the real star on the back-end. The Monaco man had an unfortunate injury during training prior too the start of the World Cup, causing him to miss several key matches in Russia, which ultimately effected the Europeans normal rotation, causing for an unexpected early exit from the largest stage in international football.
Poland had high expectations going last Summer's FIFA competition, now with a fully healthy squad, and a renewed sense of urgency, we should see a very determined Eagles unit, as this newly formed tournament progresses.
Portugal make the trip in a bit of a disarray within the national team, with super-star forward Cristiano Ronaldo being left out of the squad due to recent legal issues, the “Selecção das Quinas" now find themselves without their unquestioned leader.
Fernando Santos has returned to guide this side towards another trophy, after helping lead the Portuguese too their first major title at the Euro's 2016, he then followed that up with a Round of 16 spot, during his first World Cup appearance as the nations manager. Santos has been successful during the newly formed competition, grabbing a victory against Italy, there seems to be plenty of positive messages being relayed to his squad.
The Portuguese attack looks a slight bit more formidable than their European counter-parts, even without Ronaldo the visitors will run out a front-line trio of André Silva, Bernardo Silva and the newly inserted 'Bruma', as part of Portugal's 4-3-3 attacking formation.
This combination of players are full of talent, and with each getting valuable first team minutes with their current domestic sides, their fitness levels and overall sharpness should be on full display during Thursday's contest.
Santos will also have the luxury of a veteran laced back-line, with former Real Madrid man Pepe still a major part of the Selecção das Quinas defensive philosophy, his crafty presence has been invaluable to his fellow defenders international progression. Rui Patricio has also been irreplaceable in goal for the defending Euro champs, after moving to the Premier League as part of Wolves newly promoted side, he is getting challenged at the highest level possible on a weekly basis, as he continues to sharpen his skills as the number one for both country, and his domestic club.
Portugal have plenty of quality through-out their national squad, and often reliant on the contributions on Ronaldo to carry the team, the youngsters seem to be enjoying their turns to shine in his absence. This side has the potential to challenge any team in the field, and must be considered a serious threat, even without one of the top players in the world currently on their roster.
Poland vs Portugal - Match Prediction
The Polish should have had this match circled on their calendar, after the Eagles were eliminated during the Euro's on penalties, they finally get the opportunity to exact a small amount of revenge. After two plus years of waiting for a meeting with the Portuguese, the players and supporters should be highly motivated to get their redemption while on Polish soil.
Portugal may finally miss their star-man in this particular fixture, Ronaldo never seems phased by any type of setting, and with the Polish crowd sure to be unruly, his presence could have been instrumental in keeping the youngsters calm, and helping guide them through this daunting task.
Both teams are very organized, and chances to score may be more challenging than many would believe. I still anticipate to see each side getting at least one goal during this encounter, with Robert Lewandowski seeming the most likely of candidates to get the hosts on the scoreboard, while Portugal should depend on their pacey attacking options to help provide their own chances on goal. I will also back the home side to take all three points, as they should have enough motivation in order to deny the Portuguese from another positive result.
Poland vs Portugal - Match Tips
Poland PK / DNB +100 / 2.0 - Full Time
Both Teams To Score - YES -110 / 1.91
Nations League (B) - Bonus Match Tip
21416 Russia vs 21417 Sweden
10-11-2018 - 3:45 pm ET
Both Teams To Score - YES -105 / 1.95
Over 2.25 +100 / 2.0 - Total Full Time Goals
Nations League (D) - Bonus Match Tips
21419 Kosovo vs 21420 Malta
10-11-2018 - 2:45 pm ET
Kosovo -0.5 -125 / 1.8 - 1st Half Spread
Kosovo -1.5 -115 / 1.87 - Full Time Spread