FOOTBALL trader Mark Stinchcombe (@MarkStinchcombe) analyses Friday night's World Cup qualifier between Latvia and Portugal in Riga.
Latvia v Portugal | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports 5
Ever since losing their opening match 2-0 away at Switzerland of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, European champions Portugal have been playing catch up, going about their business in emphatic style.
Switzerland are still top of Group B with five wins out of five, but since that night in Basel, and the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Iberian outfit have won 6-0 v Andorra, 6-0 in the Faroe Islands and 4-1 and 3-0 at home to Latvia and Hungary respectively, scoring 19 goals – nearly twice as many as Switzerland (10).
They warmed up for this fixture (minus Ronaldo) with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Cyprus last Saturday. Fernando Santos, Ronaldo and the rest of this talented squad mean business and crucially don't want to lose any more ground on the Swiss before what looks to be a group decider in the final fixture in October.
Latvia meanwhile have began their campaign torridly, losing four of their five matches, including both their home matches 2-0 against the Faroe Islands and Hungary.
They've managed only two goals, and just one against minnows Andorra. They come into this on the back of an awful 5-0 friendly defeat away at Georgia in March.
Portuguese youngsters maturing
Portugal's exciting youngsters look like they're beginning to mature and this should be a case of how many. Andre Silva has enjoyed his first full season for Porto, bagging 21 goals and has an excellent record at international level, with 25 goals in just 26 starts including six in five at senior level.
Bernardo Silva has had an excellent season with 11 goals and 10 assists helping Monaco to the Ligue 1 title and into the semi-finals of the Champions League earning himself a €50M move to Manchester City in the process.
Added to this you've got the craft, guile and power of Ricardo Quaresma, Nani, Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho amongst others, in what looks like an incredible attacking force.
Ronaldo never feeling fitter
And that's not forgetting the man himself Cristiano Ronaldo, who comes into this on the back of a brace in the Champions League final with him describing himself as never feeling fitter having his game minutes intelligently managed by club manager Zinedine Zidane.
In his last 10 Madrid games he's scored a phenomenal 16 goals – 10 coming against Juventus, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid – and for his country he's bagged 10 in 5 since the Euro's.
The betting angle
Portugal have been posting impressive shot numbers, whilst keeping things tight at the back, including firing in 23– six attempts in the reverse fixture, winning the Expected Goals count 3.56 – 0.37.
Portugal have also beaten Gibraltar 5-0 and Estonia 7-0 in the last 12 months, and the bet here looks to be to cover the -2.5 Asian Handicap at 10/11 (BetVictor).
Latvia v Portugal – Portugal -2.5 Asian Handicap (10/11 BetVictor)