The qualifications for World Cup are back. Injury news is bothering both the clubs and the national teams. By the end of this round, most of the groups will have a leader. The Middle-East sides are gaining traction and might star in Qatar next year. Brazil and Argentina hold the top positions in the table and will have an encounter with each other this week.
Greece vs Spain
Greece and Spain lock horns with each other at the Olympic Stadium of Athens “Spiros Louis” the day after tomorrow. The glory days of the Spaniards are gone but Luis Enrique is working hard to revive them. The current squad overflows with talent. Pedri, Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati. But fate still has a role to play and the Barcelona forward Ansu Fati has an injured hamstring. The young talent only returned in September from a severe knee injury and he will be out for another five to six weeks. He and Eric Garcia are pulled off the Spain squad. Spain’s injury list is indeed a concern. Ferran Torres, Gerard Moreno, Bryan Gil, Sergi Roberto, Pedri, Marcos Llorente and Marcos Alonso make the list. Greece are in trouble if they didn’t win this game. They have to win the next two games and Spain should lose or draw with Sweden if they are to get the promotion. Conceding six goals of six games, they have scored just seven. The Greeks will struggle at the hands of the Spaniards before they give in.
Germany vs Romania
Germany play host to Romania in Hamburg on Matchday 7 of the European qualifiers group stages. The Germans are table toppers in Group J with five wins from six games, despite an unexpected 2-1 loss to North Macedonia early in the campaign. Hansi Flick has chosen his 23-man squad for the Romania and North Macedonia games in October. Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen and defender Matthias Ginter are back in the squad but Flick will go with Manuel Neuer as usual. Romania are third in the group with three wins. Romania have not qualified for the World Cup since 1998. They have played Germany fourteen times so far, managed to win only twice. They do not stand much of a chance against the Germans.
England vs Albania
Group I has two tough candidates in England and Poland. The two clubs have slotted in 49 goals combined so far. England will invite Albania to Wembley Stadium for a Friday encounter, the hosts are holding on to the top spot and the goal difference will make sure even if Poland win, they will continue to stay so. Gareth Southgate is failing to utilize the true potential of the squad. The Englishmen are playing defensive and some fans are not pleased. The appointment of Conte should improve things at Tottenham but Kane has been doing whatever is necessary for the national side. He has scored five goals and assisted once out of the six games he played. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Patrick Bamford will be on the sidelines. Albania still has hopes to qualify. A home loss to Poland 0-1 have put them in the backseat and the upcoming fixture is important for all three parties involved. If Albania manages to surprise England like they did Poland 4-1 back in September, they will have a chance. However, England’s defensive abilities will award the Britons three points.
Italy vs Switzerland
Italy and Switzerland meet at Stadio Olimpico in another qualifying game for the World Cup. The last meeting in September ended in a stalemate 0-0, the two clubs will be eager to make a difference. Especially after their respective triumphs over Lithuania, Switzerland 0-4 and Italy 5-0. Moise Kean slotted in two goals in that match for Italy. Unfortunately, he will stay out of this fixture due to a muscle injury. Other top players Marco Verratti, Leonardo Spinazzola and Rafael Toloi are also on the injury list. A great responsibility is on the shoulders of Roberto Mancini. Switzerland is as defensively sound as Italy, Both the clubs have allowed just a single goal in six games. Breel Embolo who scored a brace against Lithuania will be out for this fixture due to a muscle injury. Granit Xhaka, Cedric Zesiger, Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji and David von Ballmoos are on the injury list. Switzerland’s defence is weakened due to injuries, the Italians will breach it to score a winning goal.
Portugal vs Serbia
A Ronaldo hat-trick flew the Portuguese to victory the previous month. Portugal will face Serbia at Estadio da Luz on Sunday in an interesting game. Portugal has never lost to Serbia. They have three wins out of seven games played so far. Similar to the star-studded squad in Portugal, Serbia has its heroes. Dusan Tadic, Filip Kostic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are a few. Filip Djuricic and Ivan Ilic are injured. In Portugal, Raphael Guerreiro and Domingos Duarte are on the injury list. Portugal has the home advantage against the travellers.
Spain vs Sweden
Spain will host Sweden, after their outing to Greece, the hosts will probably have sealed the entry before they face Sweden. Estadio de La Cartuja is the venue for the fixture. In the previous meeting, Sweden outclassed Spain 2-1 despite giving up an early goal. Their surprise loss to Greece 2-1 was overshadowed by the Spain victory. Their affair at Georgia on Thursday will decide the intensity of this fixture. Filip Helander, Carl Starfelt and Ken Sema will stay sidelined due to injuries. For Spain too, their fixture with Greece will be the deciding point. This game will most probably be a matchup for deciding who goes to the promotion and who goes directly to the World Cup. Spain has lots of injuries and might have a hard time controlling Sweden. A draw seems a probable option.
Uruguay vs Argentina
Hanging onto the fifth spot in the table, Uruguay welcome Argentina to Campeon del Siglo for the qualification round 13 of the World Cup. Argentina embarrassed their neighbours in the prior game 3-0, Brazil followed the example 4-1. These two games have battered Uruguay’s goal difference, they are sitting with a negative goal difference of three. Argentina will be the last major threat, the remaining games look winnable and Uruguay can be relieved about that. Yet, the morale of the team will fall if they fail again. This might be the last World Cup for Lionel Messi, the Argentine haven’t had the best time in club football for almost two years. He opened the scoring in the Uruguay game and he will be happy to do the same now. The frontline is looking formidable but Messi will be absent owing to an injury. Lucas Alario and Lautaro Martinez will take charge from the front. Nicolas Gonzalez, Sergio Aguero, Leandro Paredes and Juan Foyth are also on the injury list. Argentina will manage to secure a win, at the least, a stalemate.
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