Read our comprehensive preview and free betting picks for the decisive 2022 World Cup qualifier between Portugal and Serbia, which is set to take place at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon on Sunday, November 14.
Both unbeaten in UEFA Group A (either of them are with a 5-2-0 record), Portugal will take on Serbia in a winner-takes-all clash at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon this Sunday, November 14th.
Both sides played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade in late March when Diego Jota's first-half brace wasn't enough for the Iberian side as Aleksandar Mitrovic pulled one back seconds after the break before Filip Kostic leveled the score 15 minutes into the second half.
However, the game will also be remembered for the way Cristiano Ronaldo stormed off the pitch at full time when he was denied a stoppage-time winner and there was no goal-line technology available for the qualifier.
Portugal Betting Preview (-181 @ MyBookie)
The Navigators were held to a goalless draw against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday but they are still top of the group on goal difference and a draw suits them fine in their quest for automatic qualification. It ended a run of five straight wins since Portugal lost 1-0 to Belgium in the Euro 2020 last-16.
Portugal had to endure a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign this summer as the Euro 2016 champions were dethroned as early as in the round of 16, winning just one of their four matches – a 3-0 win over Hungary in their opener. However, this is already history and Fernando Santos' side is fully focused on the World Cup campaign.
Breaking record after record (for club and country), Cristiano Ronaldo already boasts 115 goals in 183 international games for Portugal and the Manchester United forward will arguably pose the greatest threat to Serbia. He had a quiet evening in Dublin last time out but knowing his nature, Ronaldo will be eager to score against the Serbs – he has remarkably scored just once in six appearances against them.
Manchester City trio of Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, and Bernardo Silva was not involved in the goalless draw with Ireland. Whereas Dias and Cancelo both remained unused substitutes, Bernardo Silva was not in the squad due to a muscle injury and will be assessed ahead of Sunday's clash against Serbia.
Pepe is ruled out of the decisive qualifier as the veteran was sent-off against Ireland so Fernando Santos will have to reshuffle his center-back pairing. So with Pepe unavailable for selection, either fellow-veteran Jose Fonte or PSG's Danilo Pereira are expected to partner with Ruben Dias at center-back.
Pepe also missed the last visit to Serbia and it wasn't the best defensive performance by his teammates.
With four goals in four appearances, Liverpool's forward Diogo Jota is another standout performer during Portugal's World Cup qualifying campaign and should start against Serbia.
Elsewhere, João Palhinha, Renato Sanches, Ruben Neves, and William Carvalho are all in contention to start alongside João Moutinho in the middle of the park, while playmaker Bruno Fernandes will have a more advanced role, whether Santos opts for a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.
Left-back Raphaël Guerreiro wasn't called up for the upcoming qualifiers due to an injury, while Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, as well as Benfica pair Joao Mario and Rafa Silva all, withdrew from the squad. Thus, Nuno Mendes is expected to start at left-back, unless Santos opts for more experience in his starting side.
Serbia Betting Preview (+460 @ MyBookie)
The Eagles warmed up with a comfortable 4-0 win over Qatar – their second 4-0 victory over the World Cup hosts within several months – and fly to Lisbon confident that they can cause one of the biggest upsets in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
All in all, Serbia is unbeaten in a competitive game (in regular time) since they suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Hungary in last year's UEFA Nations League. However, their biggest disappointment over the period came in the Euro 2020 play-offs twelve months ago, when the Serbs lost a dramatic penalty shootout to Scotland in Belgrade and once again failed to qualify for the European Championship finals.
Dragan Stojković's side is unbeaten in their last six matches (winning five), including friendlies, but none of them was against a side that could possibly resemble a bit of Portugal's quality, so they must prepare for a completely different challenge in Lisbon.
Nemanja Radonjic, who joined Portuguese giants Benfica on loan this summer, remained the unsung hero when Serbia earned a point against Portugal in the first leg. He was brought on to replace Dusan Vlahovic at the break and made an instant impact on the game, delivering both assists.
We can easily say it – Mitro's on fire – the 27-year-old forward has already become Serbia's all-time top scorer with 43 goals in 68 games. He, who missed the last penalty against Scotland, bounced back stronger than before and already scored seven goals in as many matches in the World Cup qualifying.
Furthermore, he enjoys an extremely prolific campaign and is scoring for fun in the English Championship, where Mitrovic already boasts 20 goals and five assists in 17 league starts for promotion contenders Fulham.
But Mitrovic's form is not the only weapon of this Serbian generation as Fiorentina's striker Dusan Vlahovic (aged 21) is also thriving in Italy, scoring 10 goals in 13 appearances for Fiorentina this season, while experienced, newly-appointed captain Dusan Tadic is always a threat and will support the attacking duo.
Reims' Predrag Rajković and Sevilla's Marko Dmitrovic are competing to start in goal.
Meanwhile, Matija Nastastic, Darko Lazovic, and Filip Djuricic have all withdrawn from the squad through injuries, but all key players are available for selection.
Possible Starting Lineups of Portugal and Serbia
Portugal: Rui Patrício – João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, José Fonte, Nuno Mendes – João Moutinho, João Palhinha – Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota – Cristiano Ronaldo. (4-2-3-1)
Serbia: Predrag Rajkovic – Strahinja Pavlović, Nikola Milenkovic, Stefan Mitrovic – Filip Kostić, Nemanja Gudelj, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Nemanja Radonjić – Dusan Tadic – Dusan Vlahovic, Aleksandar Mitrovic. (3-4-1-2)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Serbia is in good form and pretty much all of their players are competing in Europe's top leagues so they should be physically and mentally prepared for this challenge. They have already proved that they won't give up without a fight, when Serbia overturned Portugal's 2-0 lead in Belgrade a few months ago, so Dragan Stojković will hope to see more of this adamant mentality.
This time, though, the Serbs will face one of the most balanced national teams in European football, with Cristiano Ronaldo aiming to reach another (most likely his last) World Cup and Fernando Santos having some of the best players at his disposal.
Portugal are yet to lose a World Cup qualifier since a 2-0 defeat at Switzerland in September 2016 and the 2-2 draw in Belgrade ended their run of 10 consecutive wins in the competition's qualifying. They have won 14 of their last 16 World Cup qualifiers (14-2-0) and are red hot favorites to beat Serbia.
Last but not least, Serbia will be looking for their first win against Portugal (losing three of their seven matches) and considering that both teams have scored in all of their seven official meetings, we expect goals at both ends on Sunday.