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Preview: Poland vs. Slovakia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Monday's European Championship clash between Poland and Slovakia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Coming into the tournament amid a grim run of form, Poland kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against Group E outsiders Slovakia on Monday, in St Petersburg.

As the Eagles enter the finals with their only win this year coming against lowly Andorra, the pressure is on coach Paulo Sousa to start with a win in Russia's cultural capital.

Match preview

Robert Lewandowski in action for Poland on June 8, 2021© Reuters

Given that their current team is built around the reigning World Player of the Year, many observers expect Poland to emerge behind favourites Spain from a closely-matched section at this summer's Euros.

However, their opening game of the much-delayed event could prove decisive in the final analysis, as they must also encounter the experience and collective will of Sweden, after meeting a new-look Spanish side in their second outing.

The tactical tinkering of wildcard coach Paulo Sousa has so far proved unsuccessful since his appointment in place of previous boss Jerzy Brzeczek earlier this year, which came after the latter had serenely steered his nation through qualifying.

Having struggled under Brzeczek when the Nations League resumed last November, coaching itinerant Sousa has gone on to experiment with different personnel and tactical setups. However, in their opening Qatar 2022 qualifying fixtures, Poland picked up only one point from meetings with chief rivals England and Hungary; defeating humble Andorra in between.

Not only that, but in the Eagles' warm-up friendlies this month, they have been held to draws by both Russia and Iceland - extending their winless streak against top-tier nations to the best part of seven months. In fact, only Karol Swiderski's late equaliser - as Sousa fielded a strong XI against the Icelanders - saved them from falling to a morale-sapping defeat last time out.

In the plus column, though, Poland can turn to their captain, most-capped player and all-time leading marksman to fire them to a successful start on Monday, with Robert Lewandowski currently the Bundesliga's most lethal penalty-box predator and one of the most admired strikers across the continent.

A nation of 38 million football fanatics will be depending upon it, as the Poles attempt to make their fourth successive attempt at the finals as successful as their last, five years ago, when they made it to the last eight; losing only to eventual champions Portugal on penalties.

Slovakia players celebrate after reaching Euro 2020 in November 2019© Reuters

Another nation to have achieved relative success in France will await Poland in their first fixture, as Slovakia were delighted to reach the last 16 at their first ever European Championship since independence at the last staging of the Euros.

With three teams again advancing from four of the six groups, Stefan Tarkovic's side can realistically target a repetition of 2016's feat, but will be aware that avoiding an opening night defeat could prove crucial to their hopes.

The Falcons certainly trumped 'the luck of the Irish' in getting to the finals: beating the Republic of Ireland in a penalty shootout in their playoff semi-final - with coach Pavel Hapal subsequently being sacked - before Tarkovic then led them to victory over Northern Ireland in the final.

Since the qualifiers ended over a year ago, Slovakia's form, however, has been largely underwhelming. They have won only two of their last 13 matches within 90 minutes, while dropping four points against Cyprus and Malta at the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign in March - though they did subsequently spring a surprise by turning over Russia in a backs-to-the-wall win on home soil.

A side of few stars, but helmed by Scudetto-winning defender Milan Skriniar and the now declining talents of national legend Marek Hamsik, it is likely that Slovakia will still prove obdurate opponents for Poland and their other Group E counterparts - as evidenced by their tightly-contested post-season friendlies versus Bulgaria and Austria, which both ended in draws.

Poland form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • D

Slovakia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D

Team News

Poland manager Paulo Sousa on June 8, 2021© Reuters

In the run-up to the Euros, Paulo Sousa has seen some of his plans thrown into disarray by a series of injuries to players in several positions, with wing-back Arkadiusz Reca, Derby County defender Krystian Bielik, plus the two most likely strike partners for Robert Lewandowski - both Krzysztof Piatek and Arkadiusz Milik - all being ruled out of action.

Southampton's Jan Bednarek is also currently recovering from injury, and has had to train individually, but is expected to be passed fit for Monday. If he is unable to start, though, then Serie A-based pair Kamil Glik and Pawel Dawidowicz will team up at the heart of Poland's defence.

Meanwhile, it would appear that Mateusz Klich and Jakub Moder - who both featured in the Premier League last season - are competing for one place in central midfield, alongside the experienced Grzegorz Krychowiak, though Torino's Karol Linetty is another option. Star midfielder Piotr Zielinski may start out in a wider role.

Opponents Slovakia have been training in St Petersburg this week, relatively free of injury concerns, as veteran talisman Marek Hamsik has been involved despite some worries about his fitness, after suffering from a calf issue at the end of last season. Therefore, only Slavia Prague forward Ivan Schranz could be missing, due to a thigh injury sustained against Austria last week.

In his possible absence, Robert Mak, Ondrej Duda and Sassuolo winger Lukas Haraslin are expected to share the final-third workload - with young Robert Bozenik only an outside contender to start, but poised to make an impact from the bench.

Poland possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Piatkowski, Glik, Bednarek, Bereszynski; Krychowiak, Klich, Zielinski, Puchacz; Jozwiak, Lewandowski

Slovakia possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Pekarik, Satka, Skriniar, Hubocan; Kucka, Benes; Haraslin, Hamsik, Mak; Duda

SM words green background

We say: Poland 1-0 Slovakia

Due to preparations disrupted by injury and experimentation, Poland's status as favourites for this game is far from secure. Nonetheless, the undimmable talents of Piotr Zielinski and national icon Robert Lewandowski should prove enough to crack a resolute Slovakia rearguard on Monday.

Even following a potential defeat, there will still be all to play for, as the Slovaks will be aware that two teams progressed in third place during the 2016 event despite tallying only three group stage points.

Top tip

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Robert Lewandowski in action for Poland on June 8, 2021
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Poland Euro 2020 preview - prediction, fixtures, squad, star player
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States25292276
Great BritainGreat Britain14181547
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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