MX23RW : Wednesday, August 4 15:18:20| >> :600:4780746:4780746:
Mar 27, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadion Rajko Mitić
Mitrovic (46'), Kostic (60')
Maksimovic (57'), Mitrovic (85')
Milenkovic (90+2')
FT(HT: 0-2)
Jota (11', 36')
Fernandes (53'), Fonte (54'), Ronaldo (90+4')

Preview: Serbia vs. Portugal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Serbia and Portugal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Serbia and Portugal will both be aiming to build on opening-day victories in World Cup qualification when they do battle at the Stadion Rajko Mitic on Saturday evening in Group A.

The hosts edged a five-goal thriller with the Republic of Ireland in their first game, while Portugal needed a huge stroke of luck to overcome Azerbaijan in midweek.

Match preview

Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring against the Republic of Ireland on March 24, 2021© Reuters

Aleksandar Mitrovic's ongoing troubles at Fulham have clearly not affected his ability on the international stage, as Serbia's star striker rediscovered his goalscoring touch at the perfect time to help his side to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ireland on matchday one.

The former Newcastle United man had only been on the pitch for five minutes before scoring a delightful chip past a hapless Mark Travers, and he soon doubled his tally with what proved to be the game-winning header in the 75th minute, with James Collins's late tap-in unable to inspire Ireland to a dramatic comeback on Serbia's turf.

An intense battle for the centre-forward spot is now brewing in Serbia's ranks after Dusan Vlahovic started and scored on the night, with Mitrovic also hopeful of fending off Luka Jovic for the opportunity to start against Portugal - quite an ideal dilemma for Dragan Stojkovic to have as his three strikers bid to prove their prowess in the final third.

Serbia's goal-laden performance in midweek sees them sit atop the rankings after the first match, although they are only above Portugal on goals scored ahead of a mouthwatering contest, and the two goals they shipped on the night ended a run of three consecutive clean sheets for the hosts across all competitions.

Having failed to qualify for the European Championships once again, another appearance on the world stage is no less than the Serbia faithful desire, but the visit of the reigning continental and Nations League champions is sure to be a true test of their World Cup credentials before next week's long journey to Baku.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos on May 28, 2018© Reuters

Despite enjoying 67% of the possession and having a whopping 29 shots over the course of 90 minutes, Portugal had to rely on a calamitous defensive error to get the job done against Azerbaijan on Cristiano Ronaldo's turf in Turin.

Solid throughout the game, Azerbaijan goalkeeper Shahrudin Mahammadaliyev attempted to punch away a cross in the 37th minute, but the shot-stopper's effort hit the back of captain Maksim Medvedev before trickling into the back of an empty net, and there were no more goals to be had on the night.

It was hardly a morale-boosting performance from the current European champions, but Santos affirmed that the three points was ultimately all that mattered on the night, and not a single season or tournament has gone by where a team has not had to win ugly to seal progress or be crowned champions.

Portugal have now taken the spoils in four of their last five matches across all competitions and kept their sixth clean sheet from eight games at the Juventus Stadium on Wednesday evening - even with inspirational centre-back Pepe failing to make the cut through injury - so that defensive resolve should certainly serve them well against Mitrovic and co in a top-of-the-table clash.

Serbia have never managed to beat Portugal in their six attempts against them - losing three and drawing three against the Iberian nation - and Portugal marched to a 4-2 win over their opponents as recently as September 2019 during European qualification.

Serbia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W

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

Portugal World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W

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

Team News

Portugal's Joao Felix celebrates scoring against Croatia alongside his teammates in the UEFA Nations League on September 5, 2020© Reuters

Mitrovic will certainly be eyeing a starting role after finding his shooting boots against Ireland, so Jovic and Filip Djuricic may have to make do with spots on the bench for this one.

Dusan Tadic bagged both assists for Mitrovic's goals so is in no danger of losing his place in the attack, while Filip Kostic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are both in line for recalls to the engine room.

Stefan Mitrovic did not cover himself in glory for Ireland's second goal on the night, so Nemanja Gudelj is waiting in the wings for his opportunity in a back three.

Eighteen-year-old Sporting Lisbon defender Nuno Mendes was handed a start on the left after an injury to Raphael Guerreiro, and the Manchester City linked-starlet is in line for his second Portugal cap this weekend.

Bruno Fernandes was introduced at half time against Azerbaijan and should certainly be recalled to the starting lineup here, with Joao Moutinho's spot in the midfield also under threat from the returning Danilo Pereira.

Santos also hailed the impact of Joao Felix in midweek, and given his side's lack of ruthlessness on the night, he may be tempted to introduce the Atletico Madrid man and Diogo Jota to the first XI this time around.

Serbia possible starting lineup:
Dmitrovic; Pavlovic, Milenkovic, S. Mitrovic; Gagic, Maksimovic, Milinkovic-Savic, Kostic; Tadic; Vlahovic, A. Mitrovic

Portugal possible starting lineup:
Lopes; Cancelo, Duarte, Dias, Mendes; Pereira, Moutinho, Fernandes; Neto, Felix, Ronaldo

SM words green background

We say: Serbia 1-2 Portugal

Serbia's rearguard is there to be breached, but the quality that the hosts possess at the other end of the pitch is unquestionable. Portugal could and definitely should have scored more against Azerbaijan had Mahammadaliyev not played a blinder, and while Santos's men cannot expect to cruise to victory this weekend, we are backing the visitors to scrape a narrow win and leapfrog their opponents in the table.

Top tip

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Turkey's Burak Yilmaz celebrates scoring against the Netherlands on March 24, 2021
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CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States25292276
Great BritainGreat Britain14181547
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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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