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A 1-0 defeat to France has put to bed Portugal’s chances of retaining their Nations League crown, despite only trailing by three points and with a better goal difference, with head to head results making progress impossible.
However, Croatia and Sweden are locked on three points at the bottom of the group as it’s clear who the real contenders were, with Zlatko Dalic’s side heading into this fixture off the back of a defeat in Stockholm.
Portugal To Win
Croatia aren’t at the level they produced when reaching the World Cup final, as various key players have grown old or retired from the international scene.
They’re just W2-D1-L4 since September and defensive frailties have become a major concern as they shipped at least two goals in five of these games, including a combined 10 across the three meetings with France or Portugal in this group alone.
Both Teams To Score
Both teams have now scored in an incredible 18 of Croatia’s last 20 appearances, including each of the past 10. However, we’d be a little reticent to back that here, with Portugal excellent at keeping the scores down to a minimum.
The goal they conceded against France on Saturday was the first in six games, though they did ship a consolation effort in their final fixture before this run against Croatia themselves, while they also played out a 1-1 draw with them in a friendly just after the World Cup.
Given Croatia’s recent results, we’d back Portugal to come away with the points. The visitors are W11-D2-L2 since June 2019, with three of the four times they failed to win coming against either France or Spain.
Croatia are the ones with something to play for here, but they’ve struggled for form since their heroics a couple of years ago, and would have been relegated from League A in the inaugural Nations League had it not been expanded to four teams per group.
Zlatko Dalic will be forced to tinker with his backline with Marseille centre-back Duje Caleta-Car suspended and right-back Filip Uremovic a doubt after coming off injured against Sweden, though he has Dejan Lovren back for this fixture.
For Portugal, Fernando Santos will likely shuffle the pack here with this Portugal’s third outing in seven days, though the same relentless schedule also applies to their hosts.
Diogo Jota To Score Anytime
That should mean a rest for 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, though he wasn’t missed in the reverse fixture as Portugal strolled to a 4-1 win.
Diogo Jota was on the scoresheet that day and it’s he that catches the eye for the Selecao. He’s been in electric form for Liverpool, netting a goal every 84 minutes at club level this season, and having scored three times across his two starts for the national team so far, should be handed another chance to impress.