Having secured an important 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying win over Hungary last week, Portugal are set to welcome Sweden in a more relaxed atmosphere in the island of Madeira on a night which will be of special importance to Portugal captain.
Cristiano Ronaldo marked the game against Hungary with goals in each half, one of which was a stunning freekick goal scored five minutes past the hour-mark when Real Madrid dropped the curtain on the match result-wise. With his morale boosted, the Portugal captain returns to his home town for an emotional match, which will be his first-ever international appearance on his home island. The European champions might have been a bit fortunate to wrap a Euro 2016 title, but their current form is here to prove quality and great work behind it as the Selecao rush to Russia albeit as one of the best second-placed teams. Despite having opened the World Cup qualifying campaign with a defeat at Switzerland, Portugal notched four straight victories, two of which were impressive 6-0 triumphs over Andorra and Faroe Islands. The 4-1 win over Latvia and the most recent win over Hungary only strengthened Portugal’s second place behind the Swiss. The Portuguese are on 12 points and trail Italy by one when it comes to best second-placed teams and their spot in the final showpiece in Russia seems like a sure deal for now. There is no room for mistakes however, and the forthcoming friendly against Sweden is intended to help Portugal remain on their toes.
Fernando Santos will have no selection issues to deal with, although we could see some changes in the starting berth for the occasion with Sanches and Semedo poised to start.
No Ibra, no problem
Sweden travel to Portugal on the back of a compelling 4-0 victory over Belarus which puts them in second place in Group A, three points short from France at the top. The Swedish national team was expected to see a drop in quality with Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of the international picture, but seeing that the Scandinavian nation scored in each of their last six matches proves that Swedish currently have no problems breaking forward. Emil Forsberg from RB Leipzig stepped under the limelight and emerged as one of the more important players for Sweden in this Zlatanless team. The Portugal clash will be a great challenge for Sweden who still have a long road to cover before securing their place in Russia. But with France still within a touching distance, nothing is lost and impossible and that is exactly what Zlatan Ibrahimovic would have said to his teammates.
John Guidetti’s injury ruled him from both games in this international spell, whereas the Swedish team is also without Oscar Wendt who surprised the nation with his decision to retire.
Portugal have a good score when it comes to playing against Sweden and their eight-match unbeaten run against the Scandinavian nation is a good indicator. Ronaldo will be particularly keen to do well at his home town, so betting on the hosts would be a wise thing to do in this particular match.
Top pick: Home win 1.65 (11/17) @Unibet
Alternative pick 1: Ronaldo to score anytime 2.00 (1/1) @10Bet
Alternative pick 2: Portugal to win and Ronaldo to score 2.10 (11/10) @SkyBet