They come around quickly, these international breaks, eh?
Domestic football takes a break for the first time since the 2020/21 campaign began in light of international football, where Portugal host Spain in a friendly on Wednesday evening ahead of the Nations League at the weekend.
For Portugal, the test gears them up nicely for a tough weekend clash against world champions France in group A3, while Spain prepare to face Switzerland in Group A4.
A Seleção come into the break off the back of two straight wins during September’s break. La Roja were in inspired form themselves and came out of their two fixtures unbeaten, but drew one of their two games against Germany.
When is Kick-Off? Wednesday 7 October
What Time is Kick-Off? 19:45 (BST)
Where is it Played? Estadio Jose Alvalade
TV Channel/Live Stream? Sky Sports Football
Referee? Paolo Valeri
Leicester right-back Ricardo Pereira remains unavailable for selection through injury for both club and country, meaning Portugal remain without his presence. Midfielders Andre Gomes and João Mário have also missed out on the squad due to injuries.
Head coach Fernando Santos has called up Wolves man Daniel Podence, who could be in line for a national team debut following his bright start to the 2020/21 season. William Carvalho, Ruben Semedo and Rafa Silva have also been called up to the squad. Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his 100th and 101st international goals last time out and makes the squad again. Obviously.
Spain are largely unaffected by injuries but will miss out on Thiago Alcantara, who is still isolating following a positive test for COVID-19. Marco Asensio misses out with injury, but Alvaro Morata hasn’t been called up.
Wolves winger Adama Traore could face a number of his club teammates having been called up to the Spain squad. He was also called up for the Mali squad, but has instead opted to report for Spanish duty.
Portugal: Lopes; Semedo, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Moutinho, Fernandes; Silva, Ronaldo, Podence.
Spain: De Gea; Navas, Ramos, Torres, Reguilon; Ruiz, Rodri, Ceballos; Torres, Rodrigo, Fati.
Both teams made an unbeaten start to their Nations League campaign, but inaugural champions Portugal made the perfect start with back-to-back wins over Croatia and Sweden.
It was in their victory over Sweden where Ronaldo broke the record for international goals, bagging a brace to keep his side perfect early on in the competition.
Spain clawed back an equaliser in virtually the last kick of the game against Germany in September to earn a 1-1 draw. It was by no means the greatest performance, but one that showed a level of grit and hunger to a young squad in transition under Luis Enrique. Their second of the two games in September was much more routine – Sergio Ramos bagged a penalty which tells you all you need to know.
The two heavyweights were set to play a friendly in June, but the impact of the pandemic called the game off, meaning the last time the pair played each other was to a 3-3 draw in the World Cup group stages.
Here’s how each side fared in their previous five fixtures…
Sweden 0-2 Portugal (08/09/20)
Portugal 4-1 Croatia (05/09/20)
Luxembourg 0-2 Portugal (17/11/19)
Portugal 6-0 Lithuania (14/11/19)
Ukraine 2-1 Portugal (14/10/19)
Spain 4-0 Ukraine (06/09/20)
Germany 1-1 Spain (03/09/20)
Spain 5-0 Romania (18/11/19)
Spain 7-0 Malta (15/11/19)
Sweden 1-1 Spain (15/10/19)
Neither side has played a lot of games together in recent times, with international football still finding its feet following a 12-month absence.
Portugal looked like they hadn’t skipped a beat in September, however, and Spain must be at their complete best to avoid an upsetting result.
La Roja didn’t quite manage to get into full gear in their big test against Germany, but will be better equipped now that players have had a few weeks to regain match fitness.
It’ll certainly make for an intriguing encounter and likely high scoring, if club football is anything to go by, but Portugal will walk away with a win.
Prediction: Portugal 3-2 Spain