MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 06:28:44| >> :600:5387999:5387999:
Mar 31, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle
San MarinoSan Marino

Mularoni (45+1'), Simoncini (52')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Manaj (63'), Uzuni (85')

Preview: San Marino vs. Albania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between San Marino and Albania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Albania will be looking to record their second victory of the World Cup Qualifying campaign on Wednesday when they travel to take on San Marino.

The hosts suffered heavy defeats to England and Hungary in the first two games of qualifying, while Albania lost to England after beating Andorra in the first game.

Match preview

Albania coach Edoardo Reja pictured on March 28, 2021© Reuters

San Marino suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to Hungary on Sunday, as Adam Szalai, Roland Sallai and Nemanja Nikolic all scored goals to seal a dominant win for the visitors.

Before that, they were on the wrong end of a 5-0 thrashing against England at Wembley Stadium.

Early goals from James Ward-Prowse, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Raheem Sterling quickly put the Three Lions in complete control, before Calvert-Lewin netted again alongside Ollie Watkins in the second half to cap off a dominant performance from Gareth Southgate's men.

La Serenissima now have to go back 17 years for their most recent victory, when they defeated Liechtenstein 1-0 in a friendly in April 2004, which remains their only international win.

Meanwhile, Franco Varrella's side are without a goal in their last seven outings, while they have conceded 16 goals in that time.

That record could be worsened further on Wednesday too, as they welcome an Albania side who have made a positive start to the qualifying campaign.

San Marino manager Franco Varrella pictured in 2019© Reuters

Albania started the international round of fixtures with a dominant performance away at Andorra, and they would go on to win 1-0 thanks to an Ermir Lenjani goal before half time.

Most recently, Edoardo Reja's men suffered a 2-0 home defeat to England, after a resilient defensive performance.

While the Three Lions did seal all three points thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Mason Mount, Albania's solid performance for the majority of the game will definitely provide encouragement for Reja.

The Red and Blacks will now look to finish the international break with a victory which will make it two wins out of three to start their qualifying campaign, as they look to progress to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

San Marino World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L
  • L

San Marino form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L

Albania World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W
  • L

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

Team News

Albania's Ermir Lenjani celebrates scoring their first goal with Elseid Hysaj on March 25, 2021© Reuters

San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini put in a commendable performance in the 5-0 defeat to England, and that scoreline could have been much worse from their perspective if it was not for some of his crucial saves.

Benedetinni is the country's most notable player, currently plying his trade in Italy's third tier with Cesena.

Meanwhile, captain Davide Simoncini holds San Marino's appearance record, with the defender having 67 international caps.

As shown in their recent results, Varrella's side lack goals, with forward Filippo Berardi and defender Mirko Palazzi the only players in the squad with international goals to their names, having scored one each.

After a conservative performance against an exciting England side, Albania could switch to a much more attacking approach for this game against a far weaker outfit.

Sokol Cikalleshi is expected to feature prominently in attack, having netted 10 goals from 39 international appearances.

He could be joined by Barcelona B forward Rey Manaj, who has netted eight goals in 15 appearances at club level this campaign.

Elseid Hysaj is arguably one of Albania's most successful footballing exports, having played over 100 games for Serie A outfit Napoli, and he will be a major player down the right flank for the Red and Blacks.

San Marino possible starting lineup:
Benedettini; Battistini, Fabbri, Brolli, Rossi, Palazzi; Lunadei, Golinucci, Mularoni; Nanni, Berardi

Albania possible starting lineup:
Berisha; Ismajli, Kumbulla, Djimsiti; Hysaj, Laci, Bare, Gjasula, Lenjani; Manaj, Cikalleshi

SM words green background

We say: San Marino 0-3 Albania

It is difficult to predict anything other than a comfortable victory for the visitors on Wednesday, given San Marino's lowly standing on the international stage.

Sadly, La Serenissima look weak in all areas of the pitch, and that should be exploited by an improving Albania side who will look to close the international break with six points from three games.

Top tip

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England's Jesse Lingard in action against San Marino on March 25, 2021
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Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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