FIGHT FOR FIRST PLACE
Good evening and welcome to Lisbon for our live coverage of the crucial World Cup qualifying clash between Portugal and Serbia.
It’s winner takes all – or winner and draw takes all in the home side’s case – as the confirmed top two in Group A fight it out for a place at Qatar 2022.
Portugal’s goalless draw in Dublin on Thursday may have been uninspiring, but it was enough to take Fernando Santos’ team to the summit, ahead of Serbia on goal difference, and leave them in pole position for the finals.
As a result, Serbia need all three points from tonight’s final group fixture, otherwise they will again face the fate of the play-offs if they are to make it back to an international tournament.
There was little to separate the sides when they met in Belgrade back in March. Two first half Diogo Jota goals had Portugal in charge, only for Serbia to strike back after the break through Aleksandar Mitrovic and Filip Kostic.
That wasn’t the end of the drama though: Nikola Milenkovic saw red in stoppage time, and then Cristiano Ronaldo turned red; the highest goalscorer in international football history was furious when he was denied a winner by the officials despite his shot clearly crossing the line, and stormed off the field at full time.
Both sides are expected to make changes after resting players on Thursday, but one man who won’t be available is Pepe. The veteran Portuguese defender was sent off late on against Republic of Ireland and is suspended.
It’s a 7.45pm kick-off at the Estadio da Luz, and confirmation of this evening’s starting line-ups is due imminently.