European national league competition has given way to Euro 2020 qualifying this weekend and in this preview we’ll look at a big game in Group B as defending champions Portugal hit the road to take on the Ukraine at NSK Olimpijs’kyj in Kiev. Ukraine has been the big surprise of the qualification round thus far and currently hold down first place, five points up on Portugal. Serbia is in third with 7 points followed by Luxembourg (4 points) and Lithuania (1 point). Realistically speaking, both of these teams should go through to the knockout stages but Portugal might look to use this opportunity for a statement. Portugal has a game in hand over the Ukraine side so they’re still very much in the running to finish top of the group table.
Ukraine is managed by Andriy Shevchenko, well known to fans of European football for his time at Chelsea and AC Milan. He took over the Ukrainian national team in 2016 and has proven to be much more successful as a manager than he was as a politician. Ukraine has won five straight after opening qualification with a draw and has a solid side with a number of players from the European Leagues. Most notable, perhaps, is West Ham United’s Andriy Yarmolenko along with Junior Morales who plays for Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukrainian Premier League.
Portugal is coming off an easy 3-0 win over Luxembourg on Friday night with goals from Bernardo Silva, Gonaclo Guedes and the ageless Cristiano Ronaldo who has now reached the ridiculous plateau of 94 goals in international play. The question surrounding Portugal heading into the Euro 2020 competition is their defensive play–they have an embarrassment of riches up front and are now getting regular contributions from Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix.
The Ukrainian side is vastly improved and that does little here against Portugal but put a target on their back. Portugal’s offense is borderline unstoppable and they should get a victory here over the upstarts from Ukraine.