Portugal are getting their World Cup preparations under way on Monday night, as they take on a Tunisia side who are also bound for Russia. The European champions come in to this one without the influential influence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was in Kyiv on Saturday night for the Champions League final. Given Real’s almost annual place in the final game of the European season, it seems odd for Portugal to organise their first friendly 48 hours later. The Real forward will play a huge role in their fortunes this summer, we’d have thought Portugal would try and get him in the team.
Portugal might be hoping to test some of their other squad members this week, as they look to their up and coming generation for inspiration. However, that’s something which could backfire, and put more expectation on the shoulders of Ronaldo. Their captain isn’t one to shy away from the limelight, but it’s hardly going to boost the squad’s confidence if they come across as a one-man team against the likes of Tunisia.
With a meeting with Morocco to come in Russia, Portugal will be hoping for a similar test against the Tunisians. The visitors are likely to defend deep in this visit to Braga, as they aim to boost morale ahead of their own big European encounters. Tunisia are lining up against England and Belgium this summer, so they’ll be aiming for a solid defensive display. However, they’re likely to be shut down going forward by this Portuguese defence, who won to nil on seven occasions in qualifying.
The North African side will have an easier time of things at the back, as Portugal are a shadow of themselves without Ronaldo. He scored close to half of their goals in qualifying, with 15 strikes of their 32 goals total. His partnership with Andre Silva did supply the bulk of the strikes, with those two hitting a combined 24 goals. However, Silva isn’t yet ready to step out on his own, as the young forward is coming off a really difficult year in Milan. We see Portugal being restrained for the most part here, so under 2.5 goals is our tip.
If anyone is going to play a part in breaking down this defence, it is likely to be Bernardo Silva. He’s the real heir to Ronaldo’s throne, and the City man had an impressive season without being overworked. He comes in to the summer in great shape, and we think his anytime goalscorer price is pretty big given that the former Monaco winger is their biggest creative threat without Ronaldo.
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These two last met 16 years ago, as Portugal drew 1-1 at home to Tunisia. Could we see an even lower scoring game this time around?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid duties rule him out here, as the Portugal squad has slowly come together over the past week.
Tunisia have a 29-man squad for this game, with just two UK based players; Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane Dundee United’s Bilel Mohsni.