World Cup contenders Portugal face non-qualifiers Algeria in a warm-up friendly at the Estadio da Luz on Thursday night as Fernando Santos looks to solidify his starting XI ahead of the impending tournament.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo and co will be looking to improve their mediocre recent form in this match- they’ve won just one of their last five games. Algeria, meanwhile, are licking their wounds after a humiliating loss to Cape Verde last week; they’ll want to bounce back and leave a dent in Portugal’s confidence. A win for Portugal, while not essential, will certainly have a positive impact on their 2018 World Cup betting odds – they’re currently seen as huge underdogs when compared to the likes of Germany and Brazil.
While Ronaldo, who recently lifted the Champions League trophy with Real Madrid, will be the star attraction, it could be argued that the other two big hitters of the game will be playing on the same team by August.
Bernardo Silva, coming off of a successful season with Premier League champions Manchester City, is rapidly becoming a key man for Portugal. He’ll almost certainly line up against Riyad Mahrez, who is reportedly close to signing for the Citizens. The battle between the two will be particularly compelling when you consider that they may well be competing for a place in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI next campaign – and, as Mahrez could reportedly cost up to £60m as well as a City player, the competition starts right here.
The big difference between the two for now is that Bernardo Silva will be one of the 16 Manchester City players at the 2018 World Cup (even after Leroy Sané’s controversial exclusion), while Mahrez’s Algeria didn’t even qualify.
I wouldn’t expect fireworks from this one – not one player on that pitch will be keen to overexert themselves in what is essentially a meaningless friendly – but it should be an interesting game. The tactically adept Algeria should mesh nicely with the attacking flair on offer from Portugal, leading to a battle between styles. Portugal will be hoping for a positive result- but don’t write off Algeria, who might just find a way to rain on their parade.