England’s preparations for the European Championship in France continue with a clash against Portugal at Wembley on Thursday (7.45pm, live on ITV1). Read on for our match preview of this international friendly with betting tips.
Consecutive 2-1 victories over Turkey and Australia mean Roy Hodgson’s charges will head into this fixture in confident mood, although there was enough in those two matches to show that England can still be vulnerable, particularly at the back.
This is clearly the biggest test yet for the Three Lions, who are likely to get a truer measure of their overall quality when they go head-to-head with one of the teams who, like themselves, are considered potential outsiders to lift the trophy this summer. This is a chance to lay down a marker ahead of the big kick-off next Friday, but Hodgson will primarily be concerned with the strength of his side’s performance rather than the result.
Fernando Santos’ Portugal also head into this game on the back of a win, with Norway defeated 3-0 in the Euro 2004 finalists’ first warm-up friendly. The Portuguese have been drawn into a favourable group on paper – Iceland, Hungary and Austria will be their initial opponents – and could make it deep into the competition this summer. There is a nice blend of youth and experience in Santos’ squad, with some particularly exciting youngsters in midfield, while in Cristiano Ronaldo they possess the best player on the continent. A disappointing World Cup showing may suggest otherwise, but Portugal certainly have the quality to repeat their last-four appearance at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine four years ago.
Hodgson cut Danny Drinkwater and Andros Townsend from his squad this week, meaning the Leicester City midfielder and Newcastle United winger will play no part in this friendly or in the European Championship. Fabian Delph has also been left out, having previously been demoted to the standby list, with Daniel Sturridge, Marcus Rashford, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere all included despite various concerns about fitness and age.
With England’s opening game with Russia now just over a week away and no more friendlies to come, Hodgson could be tempted to name his strongest possible XI as he tries to get his team ready for competitive action in France. It is still unclear exactly which players that line-up might include, but Joe Hart (pictured), Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Eric Dier, Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane should be guaranteed a place.
Portugal will be without Ronaldo at Wembley as he recovers from his Champions League final exploits, with Real Madrid defender Pepe also given extra time to recuperate. England-based players Cedric Soares and Jose Fonte will hope to be included in the back four but are more likely to be substitutes, while the likes of Nani and Ricardo Quaresma could be handed starts by Santos. Portugal’s two main concerns ahead of the tournament are an ageing backline – Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho, the two first choice centre-halves, are 33 and 38 – and the perennial lack of a top-class centre-forward, with Lille’s Eder the only real option within the ranks.
Our Preview’s England v Portugal Betting Tips Advice
This is England and Portugal’s first meeting in a decade, with the latter’s triumph in the World Cup quarter-final in 2006 the last time the pair locked horns. Despite the lack of Ronaldo, the relatively long odds available means it could be wise to back a similar outcome on Thursday, with both teams rather evenly matched and a tight encounter to be expected.
In terms of the goalscorer market, Kane would be a sensible choice for England, but the best overall option may be placing a wager on Nani to find the back of the net anytime, with the former Manchester United winger likely to be given more attacking responsibility as Ronaldo watches on from elsewhere. These are the betting tips we conclude this England v Portugal match preview with: