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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Portugal will have to stay patient in Serbia opener

Renato Sanches won Euro 2016 with Portugal
1 of 1

European Under-21 Championship Group B
Sky Sports 1, 5pm Saturday

Portugal have sent a strong squad to Poland as they look to go one better than in the European Under-21 Championship two years ago when Sweden beat them on penalties in the final. But Serbia should provide Rui Jorge's side with a decent opening test.

There is plenty of talent in the Portuguese ranks, not least Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches, who drops down from the senior ranks to help form a strong engine-room alongside Sampdoria's Bruno Fernandes and Porto's Ruben Neves.

As ever, Portugal are blessed in the wide positions with Paris St-Germain's Goncalo Guedes and Bruma, who has just signed for progressive Bundesliga club Leipzig, and as a country they invest time and effort in producing young players.

Portugal have not lost a match in normal time at this level since a friendly defeat to Czech Republic in March 2015 and the odds-on favourites have been well backed to make a winning start. 

However, Serbia are not a side to dismiss lightly and even if they do lose it could be narrowly, so under 2.5 goals looks the best bet.

Portugal may lack a killer instinct in front of goal and Serbia's squad is based around those who won the Under-20 World Cup two years ago.

Eleven of that successful squad travelled to Poland and all seven of Serbia's matches in that tournament featured no more than two goals in regulation time.

The absence of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is a blow for Serbia but they do at least possess an ideal replacement in Mijat Gacinovic, who looks set to form a midfield triangle alongside Nemanja Maksimovic and Marko Grujic of Valencia and Liverpool respectively.

Andrija Zivkovic, the standout star of the U20 World Cup triumph, has not quite met expectations at Benfica and it will be interesting to see whether Uros Durdevic steps up to this level.  

Durdevic has 15 goals in 26 Under-21 internationals and notched 24 times for Partizan Belgrade to help them win Serbia's domestic title but the 23-year-old had previously struggled at Vitesse and Palermo.

Under 2.5 goals
1pt 17-20 Sky Bet

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Team news
Daniel Podence and Bruma have both missed training and need to be assessed.

Lazio's excellent midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has turned down a request to play in the tournament.

Serbia are not a side to be taken lightly and even if they lose it could be narrowly, so under 2.5 goals looks the best bet
E.W. Terms
Sky bet