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Euro 2020 tips: Free-scoring Kosovo should put Montenegro to the sword

 

Making his tipping debut for the Colossus blog, Chris Bland has taken a look at three matches featured in £5,000 Pick 5 and he reckons a free-scoring Kosovo could be too much for Montenegro in Euro 2020 qualifying.

 

Moldova v Albania

Monday, 19:45

Moldova host Albania on Monday night as they look to recover from Friday’s shock defeat to Andorra. Reduced to 10 men after 55 minutes following Radu Ginsari’s red card, Andorra struck after 63 minutes to inflict a sixth defeat of the campaign on Semen Altmen’s men and leave them rooted to the bottom of the group.

A dogged Albanian display away at Turkey wasn’t enough, as Cenk Tosun struck in injury time to give Turkey a 1-0 win. However, I expect the Albanians to recover from this setback and they are well set up to beat a poor Moldovan side.

Coming up against a team who have let in eighteen goals across their seven group matches, the Albanians should have enough attacking threat to break down this side. A 4-2 win over Iceland stands out, whilst they have been comfortable in victory when needing to break down Andorra (3-0) and Moldova (2-0) previously.

Up front, they will be relying upon Sokol Cikalleshi to fire in the goals and he has four in four games this season for Akhisarspor in Turkey. Furthermore, Albania often have a structured, rigid defence, and shouldn’t have any worries shutting out a Moldovan attack that has only managed two goals throughout qualifying.

Moldova will be without striker Ginsari, following his red card, and an already blunt attack will be further depleted as a result. One of the few members of the Moldovan side to ply his trade outside the Moldovan league, it will be hard to see how the Moldovan side will break down a capable Albanian defence.

Drawing a blank against Andorra is particularly concerning and, despite their 70% possession, they couldn’t find a way through. As a result, it is hard to oppose Albania in this game.

Verdict: Albania

 

Ukraine v Portugal

Monday, 19:45

Portugal travel to Ukraine in Group B, as they look to extend their lead at the top of the group. Both sides have impressed defensively so far and I expect to see another tight affair in Kiev.

Ukraine have only conceded once in the qualifiers, in a 2-1 win over Luxembourg. Portugal have been similarly impressive at the back, only conceding four goals, as their manager Fernando Santos prides himself on making his side hard to beat.

Although Portugal do have an array of attacking talent, finding the best combination to get the best out of them has been a problem for Santos. Often prioritising defensive shape over attacking output, Portugal have always been a tough side to beat.. However, finding the correct combination up front to break teams down is often tough.

Goalless draws against both Ukraine and Serbia at the start of qualifying highlighted this, whilst they were made to work hard against Lithuania in the previous round before picking them off on the break towards the end of the match. It was a similar scenario against Luxembourg and they are often left relying upon the individual class of Cristiano Ronaldo, who netted his 94th international goal on Friday.

Ukraine were comfortable in victory over Lithuania on Friday, winning 2-0 thanks to a double from Ruslan Malinovskiy. Lining up 4-1-4-1, they offer solidity at the back, with Taras Stepanenko impressing in holding midfield.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is played in midfield, as opposed to full back at Manchester City, and whilst he does have the required creativity, it reinforces an already solid midfield, and will present Portugal with problems breaking them down.

The first meeting between these sides back in March finished 0-0, and I expect to see another tight affair. The context of the group means that avoiding defeat is the priority for both sides and, as a result, I believe that a draw is the best selection, suiting the needs of both sides.

Verdict: Draw

 

Kosovo v Montenegro

Monday, 19:45

Kosovo host Montenegro knowing that they have to win after Czech Republic’s shock win against England on Friday night. Sat four points before the Czechs, Friday’s result has shaken up the group, and put further importance on this game for Kosovo.

They impressed in defeat against England, with their open approach leading to a 5-3 thriller, punishing England’s defending at the back. Goals haven’t been an issue throughout the campaign, scoring ten, but they have been susceptible at the back, conceding in every game.

Montenegro have had an underwhelming campaign, and a disappointing 0-0 draw with Bulgaria reinforced the struggles they have been having. Despite only managing three goals throughout the groups, they have created chances in most games, but have struggled to be clinical enough to make them count. Coming up against a side that play open, expansive football, they should get their fair share of chances, however they will need to be much more clinical.

Kosovo are rightly favourites for this game, and their attacking, free flowing football should be enough to break down the Montenegro defence. However, given Kosovo’s leakiness at the back, particularly highlighted against England, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Montenegro get on the scoresheet. Despite this, I’d still recommend a Kosovo victory in Pristina on Monday night.

Verdict: Kosovo

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