Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Liechtenstein and Portugal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Runaway Group J leaders Portugal travel to Vaduz to face the section’s whipping boys Liechtenstein in Euro 2024 qualifying on Thursday.
With Portugal already confirmed to win the group and Liechtenstein guaranteed to finish bottom, the game will be a dead rubber.
Euro 2016 champions Portugal are safely through to next summer’s finals and stand on the verge of history if they can win their final two qualifiers.
Having won all eight matches so far under new manager Roberto Martinez, wins in two kind fixtures to finish the section here in Liechtenstein and at home to Iceland would see Portugal finish a qualifying section with a 100% winning record for the first time.
Cruising towards qualification last month has maintained Portugal’s fine record of reaching every major tournament in the 21st century, and they have done so in some style this time around.
Martinez’s typical attacking style of play has reaped the rewards in the group, as their average of four goals scored per game is a joint-high across the continent, while they have also kept clean sheets in seven of their eight qualifiers.
Netting 15 goals in their two clashes with a Luxembourg side still in contention has been the notable highlight, as Portugal have been responsible for 84% of the goals the dark horses have conceded in this group.
While progression is already secured, UEFA’s new seeding format incentivises teams to continue to take their remaining qualifiers seriously, as the pots for the finals will be decided based on how many points are won in qualifying, so Portugal will have a spot in pot one on their agenda.
For Liechtenstein, qualifying for Euro 2024 could not have been any different, as they are one of five nations still without a point.
Another two defeats this month would see Liechtenstein finish pointless in a section for the first time since they began qualifying – for Euro 96.
The microstate are now 33 games without a win, and they have scored just six goals in that time, losing 28 of their previous 29 matches, with the only exception being a draw with Armenia where their late equaliser came in remarkably fortuitous circumstances.
Konrad Funfstuck‘s side have found the net only once in Group J, but it was arguably the best goal seen anywhere across qualifying, courtesy of Sandro Wolfinger‘s astonishing volley away to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Apart from that though, a seemingly endless list of unwanted records is topped off by the fact Liechtenstein have not won a home fixture in any form for over five years – when they beat Gibraltar in the inaugural Nations League campaign.
Their recent form saw them slip as low as 204th in the FIFA World Rankings over the summer – their lowest-ever position – and they have only managed to rise to 200th since.
That is a far cry from the side which earned an incredible 2-2 draw in this fixture in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, also hosted by Germany, while also only being five minutes away from earning a draw away in Portugal.
A 4-0 win for Portugal in the reverse fixture in March – which saw Cristiano Ronaldo net twice – means the other six encounters have all comfortably gone their way though, winning by an aggregate score of 35-0.
Liechtenstein Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Portugal Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Advert – content below:
Liechtenstein will be without their captain Nicolas Hasler again as he remains out with the injury he picked up against Luxembourg in June.
Former Oxford United goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel, who also had spells at six other English clubs, is set to captain the side in his place in what is set to be his 60th cap.
Fabio Wolfinger is not in the squad, but his brother Sandro, scorer of their solitary goal in this section, should start.
Despite qualification already being assured, Martinez has still picked a full-strength squad for their final two fixtures.
Ricardo Horta is back in the squad after missing October’s internationals with injury, as is Pepe, who at 41 became the Champions League’s oldest-ever goalscorer last week.
Missing out on this squad are Danilo Pereira and Pedro Neto who have picked up injuries recently, as well as Renato Sanches, who has not had the best start to life at Roma.
Raphael Guerreiro has only played 103 minutes in all competition for new club Bayern Munich this season as injury problems have plagued his campaign, and despite returning from another setback last week, he is not in the squad.
Liechtenstein possible starting lineup:
B Buchel; S Wolfinger, Marxer, Weiser, Traber, Goppel; Luchinger, M Buchel, Sele, Meier; Salanovic
Portugal possible starting lineup:
Rui Patricio; Antonio Silva, Ruben Dias, Goncalo Inacio; Joao Cancelo, Palhinha, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao; Ronaldo, Joao Felix
We say: Liechtenstein 0-7 Portugal
In what will be a complete mismatch, anything that does not resemble a cricket score will be a positive for the beleaguered hosts.
Portugal have steamrolled everyone in their way in Group J and are on course to make it 10 wins from 10 starting with a comfortable win here.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.