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Preview: Latvia vs. Netherlands

Sports Mole previews the Euro 2016 qualifier between Latvia and the Netherlands.

Netherlands travel to Riga to play Latvia on Friday night knowing that three points are imperative if they are to get back into the hunt for a top-two spot in Group A.

Latvia are still looking for their first win of the campaign but they will take belief from their recent results against Czech Republic and Ukraine.


Latvia have not tasted success in six outings, but they head into this encounter in front of their home fans with plenty of confidence flowing within their ranks.

The 6-0 reverse in the Netherlands will inevitably be at the back of their minds, but since then, they have recorded 1-1 draws with both Czech Republic and Ukraine.

Both results are big achievements given their current world ranking of 85, and while they are underdogs against the Dutch, they won't be overawed by playing one of the giants of international football.

Twenty-year-old striker Valerijs Sabala could be key to their hopes, with the FK Baumit Jablone frontman having scored three of his side's last five goals.

Coach Marian Pahars will also be calling upon the likes of experienced duo Kaspars Gorkks and Aleksejs Visnakovs to help the younger members of the squad cope with the greater expectation of the team after their recent improvements.

Recent form: DLDLD
Recent form (all competitions): DLDLDD


Head coach Guus Hiddink of FC Anzhi Makhachkala looks on during the Russian Cup Final match between FC Anji Makhachkala and PFC CSKA Moscow at the Akhmat-Arena Stadium on June 01, 2013© Getty Images

After Louis van Gaal guided them to the World Cup semi-finals the immediate future appeared bright for Dutch football, but it's been 10 months to forget for Guus Hiddink's men.

Oranje have suffered five defeats in their last nine games, including setbacks to Czech Republic and Iceland, and although they overcame Spain in March, they were brought back to earth last Friday.

Netherlands looked on course to stretch their unbeaten run to four games when they opened up a 3-1 advantage against USA but after they conceded three goals during the closing stages, morale is low ahead of the match in Riga.

The result led to Hiddink criticising his team, and with Netherlands sitting well adrift of second-placed Iceland, they desperately need three points to not only boost their campaign, but potentially keep Hiddink in a job too.

In Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wesley Sneijder, Hiddink has a trio with 118 international goals between them, but their promising crop of young talent also need to step up in a bid to restore the team to its former glory.

Recent form: LWLWD
Recent form (all competitions): LLWDWL

Team News

Stefan de Vrij of Netherlands celebrates scoring the opening goal during the international friendly match between the Netherlands and Spain held at Amsterdam Arena on March 31, 2015© Getty Images

After the setback to the USA, Hiddink is unlikely to keep with the same team, although the majority of his attacking players should be safe from demotion to the bench.

However, defender Stefan de Vrij and midfielder Sneijder should find themselves drafted back into the starting lineup.

As for Latvia, Pahars is without midfielder Olegs Laizans, who was left out of the squad because of injury.

Both Aleksandrs Fertovs or Artis Lazdins are in contention to replace the 28-year-old.

Latvia possible starting lineup:
Vanins, Gorkss, Dubra, Maksimenko, Freimanis, Tarasovs, Lazdins, Zjuzins, Visņakovs, Rakels, Sabala

Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Cillessen; Janmaat, Blind, De Vrij, Martins Indi; Clasie, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Memphis; Van Persie, Huntelaar

Head To Head

The two teams have only ever met twice on the international stage, with the first fixture at Euro 2004 ending in a 3-0 win for the Netherlands.

Over a decade later, that triumph was backed up with the 6-0 success in November in a game where both Arjen Robben and Huntelaar netted braces.

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We say: Latvia 1-4 Netherlands

There is sure to be a bit of tension within the Netherlands camp ahead of this game, but their big-match experience should pull them through. Latvia have the potential to cause them a few problems but the firepower of the Dutch should be too hot to handle for the home side.

Who will win Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier between Latvia and the Netherlands?

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Robin van Persie of Holland celebrates after scoring the teams only goal of the game during the International Friendly match between The Netherlands and Ecuador at The Amsterdam Arena on May 17, 2014
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