Azerbaijan-Portugal Preview: Portugal without suspended Ronaldo
Paulo Bento may also have to do without left-back Fabio Coentrao as injuries pile up for the embattled Seleccao coach
By Jerrad Peters
Shukurov, Sadygov, Ramaldanov, Medvedev
Farjad-Azad, Sadiqov, Abishov, Dzavadov
Pereira, Alves, Pepe, Silvio
Martins, Voloso, Moutinho
Varela, Postiga, Vieirinha
Cristiano Ronaldo’s yellow card in Saturday’s 3-3 draw against Israel means the Portugal captain will be suspended for Tuesday’s Group F match against Azerbaijan.
His loss further depletes a Portuguese attack that was already without Manchester United winger Nani, who who suffered a hamstring injury on club duty.
Porto’s Silvestre Varela, who started in place of the Manchester United winger in Ramat Gan, is expected to keep his place in Baku, and one of Danny or Vieirinha will replace Ronaldo.
Left-back Fabio Coentrao may also be absent on Tuesday after picking up a foot injury against Israel and Deportivo La Coruna left-back Silvio is on standby should Coentrao be unable to start.
Carlos Martins is also expected to play from the beginning against Azerbaijan in place of Raul Meireles, who has come down with flu.
Azerbaijan boss Berti Vogts has no new injury worries or suspensions to deal with ahead of Tuesday’s match.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Portugal head into Tuesday’s match without a win since September 2012—the last time they played Azerbaijan.
- Silvestre Varela, Helder Postiga and Bruno Alves scored the goals in Portugal’s 3-0 win over Azerbaijan in September—all three coming after the hour mark.
- With Cristiano Ronaldo suspended and Nani injured, Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida are Portugal’s only available internationals with more than 10 international goals apiece. Postiga has 25; Almeida 16.
- Azerbaijan have picked up points in three matches so far in World Cup qualifying—drawing with Israel, Luxembourg and Northern Ireland. But their best performance came in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Russia in Moscow.
- When the latest Fifa rankings came out earlier this month, the home side had risen two places—from 118th to 116th.
- These two sides have met on three previous occasions, with Portugal winning each of them by a combined score of 8-0.
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Top 3 Predictions
Azerbaijan 0-3 Portugal
- 17.47 %
Azerbaijan 0-2 Portugal
- 15.91 %
Azerbaijan 1-3 Portugal
- 9.91 %
|World Cup Qualifying - UEFA (WCQ)||Mar 26, 2013||Azerbaijan 0 - Portugal 2|
|World Cup Qualifying - UEFA (WCQ)||Sep 11, 2012||Portugal 3 - Azerbaijan 0|
|Euro 2012 (EC)||Oct 13, 2007||Azerbaijan 0 - Portugal 2|
|Euro 2012 (EC)||Oct 7, 2006||Portugal 3 - Azerbaijan 0|
|Mar 5, 2014||Azerbaijan 1 - Philippines 0||FR|
|Nov 19, 2013||Kyrgyzstan 0 - Azerbaijan 0||FR|
|Nov 15, 2013||Estonia 2 - Azerbaijan 1||FR|
|Oct 15, 2013||Azerbaijan 1 - Russia 1||WCQ|
|Oct 11, 2013||Azerbaijan 2 - N. Ireland 0||WCQ|
He was Azerbaijan’s most dangerous player against Luxembourg on Saturday and will be looking to score his first international goal against Portugal. A right-sided attacker, he’ll no doubt be hoping Fabio Coentrao is unable to play and Silvio starts in his place.
He typically requires a hatful of chances in order to score—especially for his country—but through five rounds of World Cup qualifying he leads Portugal's goalscoring charts with four strikes. Without Ronaldo and Nani, however, he could struggle for service.
Their hosts may be tough to break down, but if Portugal cannot win this match then they do not deserve a place at the 2014 World Cup finals.