MX23RW : Tuesday, December 11 00:51:55

Preview: Denmark vs. Albania

Sports Mole previews Friday's key Euro 2016 Group I qualifier between Denmark and Albania in Copenhagen.

Both Denmark and Albania will be desperate for all three points when the two countries meet in their Group I qualifier for Euro 2016 on Friday.

Denmark currently sit second in the section, two points behind the leaders Portugal, but Almeria are level on 10 points and would go top with a victory.


French forward Olivier Giroud (R) vies with Denmark's defender Eric Sviatchenko (L) during the friendly football match France vs Denmark, on March 29, 2015© Getty Images

With Group I shaping up for a spectacular finish, three points for Denmark on Friday would place them in a strong position entering their final two matches. Defeat, however, would leave them needing to rely on other results to secure a top-two finish.

Denmark opened their Group I campaign with a 2-1 win over Armenia last September, before claiming a decent point in Albania. A 1-0 home defeat at home to Portugal followed, but back-to-back wins over Serbia have placed Morten Olsen's side in a fairly strong position.

As mentioned, just two points separate the top three teams in the group and with Portugal not in action until next Monday, when they face Albania, a spot at the top of the section is on offer in Copenhagen. In terms of what is left to come, Denmark will travel to Armenia for their penultimate Group I match on Monday, before travelling to Portugal on October 8.

Four of Denmark's last five international matches have been friendlies and they have brought mixed results. Olsen's side lost 2-0 to both Romania and Denmark, but recorded a 3-2 home win over the United States in March 2015, before beating Montenegro 2-1 in June, five days before they beat Serbia 2-0 in their last Euro 2016 qualifier.

Denmark failed to qualify for the European Championships in 2008, but they have been present in seven of the last eight editions. They fell at the group stage in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2012, but did make the quarter-finals in 2004 and indeed won the competition in 1992.

Before losing 1-0 at home to Portugal last October, Denmark had won their previous seven home European qualifiers. A point in this particular fixture would not necessarily be a bad result, but unbeaten Albania will provide stern opposition on Friday.

Recent form: WWDLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWLWW


Albania's Ermir Lenjani and Ansi Agolli celebrate after scoring during the Euro 2016 qualifying round football match between Albania and Denmark at the Elbasan Arena Stadium, on October 11, 2014© Getty Images

Albania have never before qualified for a major international tournament, but their form in Group I thus far has aided suggestions that they will be at the competition in France next summer.

Indeed, Gianni de Biasi's side, who are now ranked at 22 by FIFA – their highest ever position - have not yet lost in their section. A total of 10 points from four group matches has left them in third position in the table and victory against Denmark would take them top, with a game in hand.

Albania opened their qualification campaign with a hugely impressive 1-0 win in Portugal, before claiming a 1-1 draw at home to Denmark four days later. A trip to Serbia was next on their fixture list, but the game was abandoned and Albania were awarded the points with a default 3-0 win.

In March of this year, a 2-1 victory over Armenia moved them onto 10 points and into a strong position with four games remaining. In terms of looking forward, they host Portugal in what is a monumental clash on September 9, before ending in October with a home game against Serbia and trip to Armenia.

Albania finished fifth in Group D during qualification for Euro 2012 – some 12 points behind group winners France. Indeed, Albania only won two of their 10 games in their last qualifying process and their marked improvement this time around has been a surprise to many.

The Red and Blacks have also shown their credentials in recent friendlies – beating France 1-0 in June after they had drawn 1-1 with the same opponents last November. Albania were also only narrowly beaten by Italy last November courtesy of a strike in the final 10 minutes.

Recent form: LDWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): DWDLWW

Team News

Danish forward Nicklas Bendtner celebrates scoring during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Group B qualifying football match Denmark vs Italy in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 11, 2013© Getty Images

Highly-rated 20-year-old Pione Sisto is set for his first appearance for Denmark on Friday, with the Ugandan-born midfielder helping Midtjylland to their first Super League crown last season.

There are plenty of familiar faces in the Denmark squad, with Simon Kjaer, Daniel Agger and Lars Jacobsen three members of a defence that have gained at least 50 caps.

Further forward, Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen should start, while Nicklas Bendtner will hope to add to his 29 international goals on what could be his 69th appearance.

Albania, meanwhile, will be without the services of injured defender Mergim Mavraj, but Zurich's Berat Djimsiti has been called into the squad for the first time and should start.

Skipper Lorik Cana will hope to add to his 84 international appearances, while Ervin Bulku and Burim Kukeli should start in midfield.

The top scorer in the squad is Hamdi Salihi, who has netted 11 times in 50 games for his country. The Skenderbeu Korce attacker could also be joined in the final third by Istanbul Basaksehir's Sokol Cikalleshi.

Denmark possible starting lineup:
Andersen; Jacobsen, Agger, Kjaer, S Poulsen; Krohn-Dehli, Eriksen, Kvist; Sisto, Bendtner, Rasmussen

Albania possible starting lineup:
Berisha; Agolli, Cana, Djimsiti, Hysaj; Bulku, Kukeli, Abrashi, Xhaka; Salihi, Cikalleshi

Head To Head

In nine senior international meetings with Albania, Denmark have recorded six wins, with Albania winning just once and the further two fixtures finishing level.

Denmark have also won all four of their previous meetings on home soil, but they needed a late goal from Lasse Vibe to secure a point in their Group I Euro 2016 qualifier in Albania last October.

Albania's only victory over their opponents on Friday occurred in October 1963, when they were 1-0 winners in a European Championship qualifier.

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We say: Denmark 1-1 Albania

Denmark will fancy their chances of recording three vital points on home soil and history suggests that they will be the favourites.

Albania have shown that they are a tough nut to crack, however, and we believe that the visitors will have enough about them to claim a 1-1 draw, leaving Portugal top of the group.

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Who will win Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier?

Didier Deschamps of France reacts during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Quarter Final match between France and Germany at Maracana on July 4, 2014
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