It’s crunch time between Portugal and Switzerland with a place at the World Cup on the line.

Portugal want to avoid another major tournament play-off, and can book their ticket to Russia with victory at the Estádio da Luz. The Seleção can also gain revenge against a Swiss side that won the reverse fixture 2-0 in Basel, a match in which Ronaldo was unavailable.

PortuGOAL’s Matthew Marshall previews the crucial match for Fernando Santos’ European Champions.

Form guide

After opening their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 loss in Switzerland 13 months ago, manager Fernando Santos said: “There’s only one thing to do now. That is to win, win and win again until the end of qualification.” Portugal have won eight in a row and have the chance to fulfil Santos’ prophecy on Tuesday evening.

The Confederations Cup exit was disappointing, but Portugal returned to qualifying duties with wins against Faroe Islands (5-1), Hungary (1-0) and Andorra (2-0). The Seleção have scored 30 goals in eight wins since the Swiss defeat with Ronaldo scoring half of them, including the opening goal in Andorra after coming off the bench at half time. Portugal have won all four home games, scoring 18 goals and conceding twice.

The scriptwriters couldn’t have done a finer job with Group B, Switzerland winning all nine games with Portugal hot on their heels. Vladimir Petković’s side have scored 23 goals and conceded five, four of those coming in two games against Hungary.

Switzerland kept six clean sheets in a row before the 5-2 win against Hungary on Saturday. Howlers from Hungarian goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi gifted the Swiss two goals and Fabian Frei’s goal took a wicked deflection which exaggerated the significance of the score line. Yans Sommer spilled a cross for Hungary’s second goal which has the potential to play on his mind in Lisbon.

Head to head

Portugal have faced Switzerland on 21 occasions with Portugal winning seven, Switzerland ten and four draws, but they have met only twice since 1993. Switzerland won 2-0 on home soil at the 2008 European Championships in the final group game with Portugal resting key players including Ronaldo.

The latest came in the opening World Cup qualifier in Basel with another 2-0 win to Switzerland, Portugal once again without Ronaldo. The Seleção created the better chances early on before Breel Embolo pounced on a spilled free-kick and Admir Mehmedi doubled the lead soon after. Portugal were unable to get back into the game and have been playing catch up ever since.

Danger man – Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro. It’s easy to scoff at the ridiculousness of continuing to discuss the importance of Ronaldo to his nation, but at 32-years-old it’s not something that will last forever so let’s milk it for all it’s worth. He is simply brilliant on the football pitch but words will never do him justice. Just enjoy it while you can.

Ronaldo came off the bench at half time in Andorra with the match scoreless and took 18 minutes to put Portugal in front. It was the 79th international goal for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner. He was also instrumental in the build-up to André Silva’s 86th minute goal that sealed the deal.

Danger men – Switzerland

Xherdan Shaqiri might have failed to meet expectations at Bayern Munich but the Stoke City winger has all the tools to unlock any defence. The tricky left footer produced two assists against Hungary to take his tally to five assists and one goal in seven games this campaign. Shaqiri didn’t play against Portugal in Basel but is definitely a player to be feared.

Haris Seferovic started this season in great form for new club Benfica, scoring in his first four games for the Eagles but has cooled off since. The striker didn’t score against Hungary but provided an assist, taking his tally to three assists and four goals this campaign. He is likely to continue up front at the familiar Estádio da Luz, but with Breel Embolo knocking on the door after a long injury lay-off, Seferovic is under huge pressure to keep his starting spot.

Stephan Lichtsteiner is an experienced right-back, the 33-year-old Swiss captain with 92 caps under his belt. Ricardo Rodríguez is an exceptional left-back, Granit Xhaka is very important in central midfield while striker Breel Embolo is highly rated but unlikely to start.

What to expect

It goes without saying that Ronaldo will come back into the starting XI. Neto started alongside Pepe in Andorra with Nelson Semedo and Danilo starting so Santos has some tough decisions to make for the Switzerland game.

I’ll fancy a guess and say that Cedric and Bruno Alves will come back into the defence at the expense of Neto and Nelson Semedo, with Bernardo Silva switching to his favoured position on the right wing. Quaresma could keep his spot on the left wing but might make way for the more defensive minded João Mário to keep a check on Shaqiri.

Danilo has started the last two games and might have just done enough to edge past William in the holding midfield role. It’s a difficult one to predict but here goes nothing:

After the win in Andorra, Fernando Santos said: “The game versus Switzerland is not a question of revenge. It’s a question of winning it or winning it. We'll win it.” Seleção supporters certainly hope so but Switzerland will be a tough nut to crack. The Swiss are a highly organised team with talented individuals and know a draw will be enough to secure their place at Russia 2018.

Portugal are not used to doing anything the easy way, but an early ticket to Russia without the stress and uncertainty of a play-off would be welcome gift before the festive season. The stage is set for Ronaldo to step up once again and lead his nation to the World Cup.

Força!

By Matthew Marshall (Twitter: @noobzcorp)

Related: Ronaldo leads Portugal past Andorra

 

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    So here we go, the "final" to get us through to the world cup! While the organised and efficient Swiss mustn't be taken lightly, I share Santos' confidence that we will win and go through. This is generally when the Selecao performs best, when it's backs against the wall, all or nothing time. We are a stronger team than Switzerland and with a packed Da Luz behind us, we have to go out and show it.

    The Swiss know a draw is good enough for them, and I'm sure that at least to start off with they will set out ultra defensively, knowing of our general difficulty against teams who simply put 10 men behind the ball. Clearly an early goal would be perfect as it would mean the Swiss would have to open up. But even if that early goal doesn't come, we must remain patient and persistent and keep believing. We have better players than the Swiss and as long as we match their team work and spirit, we should be able to secure the win by the end of the match.

    In terms of the line up, a few things I'd like to see: William as the number 6. He's been in great form of late and to me is a better overall player than Danilo. Gelson Martins nowhere near the pitch in such an important match as this. He has looked totally innefective in a Portugal shirt up to now. I think probably the back 5 (although Fonte could get the nod ahead of Alves) and obviously the front 2 will be as is suggested in the article, really it's the midfield that poses the toughest decisions for Santos. Personally I'd go for the experience of Moutinho as the number 8 with William behind him, Mario on the left and Bernardo on the right. Whoever does play in the end though, I'm confident we'll get the job done and get to Russia. Forca!!!

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  • Danilo and Alves in would point to Santos expecting lots of corners? Both guys outstanding on set plays. Regardless for a Portugal.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    I agree with Andre/Uk in terms of squad selection, except for one - Bruno Fernandes. This is probably not the best match for him to enter, yet he's our Renato 2017 edition, and could pose a huge difference.

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  • Guest - Winnipeg

    In the 2-0 loss our front 3 were Bernardo, Eder and Nani. Not what we'd call the most prolific trio but they were not the reason we lost.

    What we lacked was defensive awareness as the Swiss would often look for a trailer in their attack. Portugal need to keep this in mind and not let up on the play.

    We will see a very defensive formation from the Swiss and I do see crosses being the best way to attack in the first half (perhaps we are due for a goal from a CB or Danilo/William off a corner kick - you heard it hear first). In games like this an unforeseen hero often emerges.

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  • Embolo is to be feared but Shaqiri isn't. At least he isn't unless Eliseu start so...:o
    Other than that I agree with your line up. Maybe they could do Danilo and William in CM for a 4.2.3.1 to make it that little bit more secure in midfield? There is enough attacking talent with 4 places up front.

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  • I am only worried about the left Portugal side. The Swiss right back Lichtsteiner and Shakiri in front of him are in good form and they already proved good chemistry. If Eliseu is not able to overperform, this is clearly the danger side and will cause Portugal many problems. Difficult to predict whether the Swiss will play a pressing or if they will defend deep. My bet is on the latter. I mean, there was enough video material to watch, rpving that Portugal has huge problems with teams parking the bus. Switzerland will not do that excessively, but they will also not be that stupid to press high and risk to be overran by the Portuguese danger men. Santos meanwhile will sure play it save enough. I can't imagine that his team will burn a firework in the starting 15 - 20 minutes. The workrate in midfield must be extremely high, and Portugal has to withstand physically. My hopes are, that Portugal's most skilled players goe into 1:1 from the beginning, trying to annoy the Swiss guys - because Lichtsteiner (RB, Juve) and Xhaka (DM/CM, Arsenal) are extremely irritable and the first two candidates on the Swiss side to be booked. I would like to see Ronaldo, André Silva and Bernardo Silva to get their best dribbles out and force early bookings. This will force these guys to hold back a bit - or they'll risk yellow-red in the second half. Besides that, just stay cool and patient. Of course this is not the right opportunity for experiments, but a more mobile CB besides Pepe would be highly appreciated. Also because Eliseu will be a liability. He needs some support, not only from midfield, but also from the back four. Therefore this would again be a situation where having Danilo as CB would be an upgrade. But yes, Santos will by no means do something experimental but sure bet on Pepe and Fonte as CBs. There is no reason to be afraid of the Swiss - but this is a big game and Portugal's record against Switzerland is negative. I trust in Santos - player selection and tactics.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    Switzerland are a very good side, but we have more than enough quality and experience at our disposal to get the job done. I highly doubt this we'll see a fast-paced, entertaining match with plenty of chances. Fernando Santos will be very wary of the threat Switzerland pose on the counter, so don't expect him to press to high up the pitch. The Swiss -- only needing a draw to guarantee a spot in the world cup -- will likely sit back and look to hit on the break, so I expect Santos to opt for a patient, possession-oriented approach. Ronaldo and Andre Silva will definitely get the start up front, and Joao Mario and Bernardo will likely operate as inverted wingers in Santos' narrow 4-4-2. Moutinho's experience cannot be overlooked, so he's almost certain to get the start, and I wouldn't be surprised to see William get the nod over Danilo since he gives us a lot more quality on the ball than the Porto man.

    Nelson Semedo is arguably the best right-back in Europe at the moment, but Cedric has been excellent in big games since he made the right-back spot his own at the Euros, so I expect him to start. I've been one of Bruno Alves' most vocal critics over the years, but he's actually done quite well when called upon over the last year -- plus his aerial ability could come in handy against a Swiss side that will surely pose a threat on set-pieces. I'd prefer Antunes to get the start at left-back, but Eliseu's familiarity with the squad and Santos' system gives him the edge.

    If the game is still tied around the 60th minute, Quaresma will come on and look to cause havoc with his crosses. If we're winning 1-0 around the 60th or 70th, expect to see both Danilo and William on the pitch at the same time to close the game out.

    My prediction: Portugal wins 1-0 with Ronaldo scoring a trademark big-game header.

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  • Guest - Ricardo Antunes

    Ronaldo will save us again! he has been consistent performer for Portugal...every team that plays Portugal always has to have 2 men or a strategy to contain Portugal elite player, much easier game when he is not playing...Switzerland first game...this game is ours for the taking Ronaldo 1 - 0 Swiss

    Eder would be #2 threat...actually #1 vs France...too bad he isnt on this squad lol

    from Toronto, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Nghia Vo

    I think Ronaldo and his team will make it. Ronaldo is the guy play in tough match and win.;)

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  • Guest - johnieoooooo

    -----------Patricio--------------
    Cedric---Pepe--Fonte--Antunes
    ----------William-----------------
    Bernardo---Mario--Moutinho
    ----Ronaldo-----Silva------

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