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WC Qualification Europe

  • 16 October 2012
  • • 20:45
  • • Estádio Do Dragão, Porto
  • Referee: T. Kinhöfer
  • • Attendance: 48711
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Portugal - Northern Ireland Preview: Cristiano Ronaldo set to reach 100-cap milestone

Portugal - Northern Ireland Preview: Cristiano Ronaldo set to reach 100-cap milestone

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The Real Madrid star will become his country's third-ever centurion when he leads them out against Michael O'Neill's men, who are still yet to win under their new boss

  PROBABLE LINEUPS

PORTUGAL

Rui Patricio
Pereira, Alves, Pepe, Nelson
Moutinho, Veloso, Micael
Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
NORTHERN IRELAND

Carroll
Baird, Hughes, Evans, McArdle, McGivern
Carson, Davis, Norwood
Lafferty, Shiels

After coming off 20 minutes into Friday's 1-0 defeat in Russia, Real Madrid left-back Fabio Coentrao (groin) will not be available for Portugal, though the extent of his injury is not yet known. Real Betis star Nelson is likely to feature in his stead.

Paulo Bento will also bring in Ruben Micael for Raul Meireles in midfield after the Fenerbahce man picked up an injury in training.

There are some key absentees for the visitors, however. West Brom defender Gareth McAuley is suspended for this clash after picking up two yellow cards already in the qualifying campaign, while Chris Brunt (hamstring) and Shane Ferguson (hip) will be missing from the midfield.

Several potential replacements for those players have also been ruled out, with Alex Bruce (groin) unable to make his debut while Grant McCann (knee), Jamie Ward (hamstring), Joe Dudgeon (knee), Martin Paterson and James McPake (Achilles) are all missing.

Huddersfield Town's Oliver Norwood and Ipswich Town teenager Josh Carson are likely to feature in the middle of the park as a consequence.

  DID YOU KNOW?
  • Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is set to win his 100th cap in this match. The Real Madrid star is currently third on his country's all-time appearances list, behind Fernando Couto on 110 and Luis Figo on 127.
  • Ronaldo is also third on the hosts' table of most goals scored, though he already exceeds Figo in this regard. Only Eusebio (41) and Pauleta (47) can better the 27-year-old winger's tally of 37.
  • Portugal have only won two home games out of four in the calendar year 2012. Bento's men beat Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in September but suffered a defeat by Turkey and draw with Macedonia in the build-up to Euro 2012.
  • Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill (pictured right) is still looking for his first win since taking the job in late December 2011.
  • Since the new boss took over, the Green and White Army have conceded an average of three goals per game, with not a single clean sheet yet kept.
  • The last time that these two sides met, in November 2005, Northern Ireland recovered from conceding an own goal to draw 1-1 at home.
  • Not a single player in the Northern Ireland squad plays for a club in their native country. Portugal have eight such players, though only three (Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho and Micael) are expected to start.

Players to watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

Position: Attacker

Games: 10

  • 8
  • 5
  • 0
It may be obvious but, in this game more than ever, the Portugal captain will be desperate to put on a show. Receiving his 100th cap at only 27 years old, the Real Madrid hotshot has a great sense of theatre and will feel that he owes it to himself and the home supporters to do some real damage against a Northern Ireland team who will struggle to resist him if he plays anywhere near his peak.

S. Davis

Position: Midfielder

Games: 10

  • 1
  • 1
  • 0
The Southampton central midfielder will have a key role in the centre of midfield for Michael O'Neill's side as injuries have forced out several of his experienced team-mates. With youngsters like Oliver Norwood and Josh Carson likely to accompany him in the middle, Davis will need to be at his very best to stop Portugal's experienced and capable engine room from passing his team out of the game.

Editor's Prediction

Even with these two sides lined up with their preferred starting XIs this would appear a mismatch but the odds are even further stacked in the hosts' favour thanks to the injuries dogging Northern Ireland. With Cristiano Ronaldo wanting to do his milestone justice it is likely to be a question of 'how many?' for Portugal and only the massed ranks of the visitors' five-man back line are likely to stop this being a really embarrassing score.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Portugal

Northern Ireland

Wins
2
3
0
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Portugal PRT
Portugal Portugal
Draw
Northern Ireland NIR
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland
88%

Top 3 Predictions

Portugal PRT
3 - 0
Northern Ireland NIR
Portugal PRT
4 - 0
Northern Ireland NIR
Portugal PRT
2 - 0
Northern Ireland NIR

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