Portugal national football team continue their preparations for Euro 2016 finals in France with a friendly against Bulgaria at Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria on Friday night.
A Seleccao bounced back with a 2-0 win over minnows Luxembourg before losing 1-0 away to Russia. Portugal, who won 7 of their 8 matches in the qualifying stage are very much the favourites against a Bulgaria squad whose form were poor in recent years. This will be their first friendly of the calendar year 2016.
Bulgaria failed to qualify for the Euros after finishing fourth in the groups which included Italy and Croatia. They managed just 3 wins and lost 5 out of their 10 games in the group stage and now focus is set on World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign.
Portugal have won 4 of their last 5 matches and kept a clean sheet in 3 of them. Six of their last 7 matches have witnessed under 2.5 goals.
While playing at home, Portugal have lost in tow of their last three matches and have failed to score in both of them. Their last home match was a 1-0 win against Denmark in qualifiers on November 2015.
Bulgaria have lost 3 of their last 4 matches and have failed to score a goal in those defeats. Their away record is terrible, with 1 win and 4 defeats in the last 6 matches and just 2 goals in the process.
Portugal vs Bulgaria: Head-to-Head Stats
This will be first time that Portugal and Bulgaria meet in a football match since 1992.
They have played against each other on 9 occasions, with Bulgaria winning in 4 and Portugal 3 and the rest 2 were draws.
Portugal are unbeaten at home against Bulgaria; and their record in a total of 5 matches is 3 wins and 2 draws.
Portugal Team News
Tiago, Joao Moutinho and Fabio Coentrao are sidelined due to injury, while 18-year-old Benfica sensation Renato Sanches has received his first ever call-up to the senior side.
Familiar faces Nani and Ricardo Quaresma are set to start, while reports in Portugal suggest that Ronaldo may be rested for this match against Bulgaria.
Southampton full back Cedric Soares is expected to start, while his club captain Jose Fonte could start from the bench.
Portugal Expected Starting line-up (4-3-3):
Patricio – Soares, Bruno Alves, R Carvalho, Eliseu – Mario, Pereira, Silva – Nani, Ronaldo/Danny, Quaresma
Bulgaria Team News
Bulgaria head-coach Ivaylo Petev will be keen to use this opportunity to test some new players for the squad ahead of the World Cup qualifying campaign. The senior players like Nikolay Bodurov, Dimitar Rangelov, Ivelin Popov and Alexander Tonov are all called up for the squad.
Brazil-born midfielder Marcelinho who plays for Ludogorets Razgrad has earned his first call-up to Bulgaria national team and he could feature at some point in the game.
Litex Lovech defender Anton Nedyalkov and Pirin Blagoevgrad winger Toni Tasev are youngsters who could make their debut here.
Bulgaria Expected Starting line-up (4-2-3-1):
Mitrev – Popov, Aleksandrov, Bodurov, Nedyalkov – Dyakov, Zlatinski – Marcelinho, Popov, Aleksandrov – Rangelov.
Portugal vs Bulgaria: Prediction
Fernando Santos managed Portugal side are a strong side and are heavy favourites in this friendly. And Bulgaria will be mainly using this fixture to experiment with their line-ups and formation.
With or without Ronaldo, Portugal have what it takes to clearly win this one on Friday evening.