Portugal vs. Turkey Predictions: We're expecting this one to boil over
It’s a break from elite domestic football this week as the World Cup qualifying playoff semi-finals get underway, as Portugal and Turkey face-off in Lisbon for the right to face Italy or North Macedonia for a place in Qatar.
Portugal vs. Turkey Tips
The prospect of Portugal not featuring at a major international tournament, having qualified for the last 12 in a row, is certainly a strange one but that’s the position they find themselves in here.
Cristiano Ronaldo has never failed to feature at an international tournament, but a failure to defeat Serbia in their final group game has left them two wins away from the World Cup with Group G runners-up Turkey standing in their way.
The Crescent-Stars were pipped to the top of their group by a deserving Netherlands side, who left it late to beat Norway on the final matchday, but are unbeaten since Stefan Kuntz’s appointment last September - winning three of four games to close out the qualifiers.
Captain Burak Yilmaz should continue to lead the line with Hakan Calhanoglu just behind him, and the latter is having an impressive season following his move across Milan from AC to Inter last summer.
His contribution of 0.69 goals and assists per 90 is his highest rate since moving to Serie A in 2017 but it’s come with an increase in bookings too, seeing him earn 0.34 per 90 from a deeper midfield role.
His job could be slightly easier on Thursday too, with Portugal facing somewhat of an absentee crisis.
Joao Cancelo and Renato Sanches are both suspended for this fixture following bookings against Serbia; while a plethora of first-team players have withdrawn from the squad in the last week.
Their backline is heavily weakened, with Ruben Dias and Nelson Semedo missing with injuries while Pepe has tested positive for COVID. Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves is also out with an injury, while club-mate Jose Sa has been called-up to replace injured Lyon stopper Anthony Lopes.
It leaves coach Fernando Santos with a selection headache (and a convenient excuse) for this tie with Vitinha and Tiago Djalo, who were both born this millennium, likely to make the starting XI.
It’s likely to be last chance saloon for Santos though, who could have been sacked after the defeat to Serbia, and he’ll be more reliant than ever on Cristiano Ronaldo’s ability to score from anywhere to save his job.
With the magnitude of this tie, and what it likely means for both sides, it wouldn’t be surprising to see tensions boil over here.
It also helps that both sides were highly ranked for bookings during the qualifying process too. Turkey (8th of 55 teams) averaged 2.50 cards per 90 in Group G - picking up five apiece in each of the games against table-topping Netherlands.
They also picked up at least two in each of their three disappointing Euro 2020 group games, as well as at least two in their European qualifiers against France.
What I’m getting at is Turkey earn bookings against elite sides, and with Portugal ranked 8th in the world, they don’t come much bigger than that.
A Seleção are no strangers to the referee’s notebook themselves either - picking up 2.25 per 90 in qualifying (19/55) - and earned two or more in six of their eight ties, including three in each match with group winners Serbia.
Both sides also draw fouls, ranking 11th and 13th for opponent cards per 90. Portugal drew 2.50 per 90, whilst Turkey drew slightly less at 2.40 per 90.
With Portugal’s weakened defence and Turkey’s impressive form under their new coach, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the away side in a position where they have something to play for as the game approaches the 90th minute.
With that in mind, I’m happy to take the 11/1 on Trabzonspor keeper Cakir making a nuisance of himself with referee Daniel Siebert.
The Leeds-linked stopper has been booked four times in the Süper Lig so far this season, as well as seeing red with two quick bookings against Besiktas back in November for responding to abuse from rival fans.
What’s interesting about Cakir is that he doesn’t just pick up cards for time-wasting and is quite often booked early for dissent.
He’s been carded in the first half of two games already in 2022, earning both for ‘arguing’ with referee decisions in games against Goztepe and Galatasaray.
That’s not something German official Siebert will stand for though, and he’s booked two different goalkeepers in each of his last two ‘knockout’ ties.
Most recently he carded PAOK keeper Alexandros Paschalakis in the first half of their Europa Conference League Last 16 second leg for time-wasting, and gave another to Villarreal’s Gerónimo Rulli for his vociferous protestations at an Adrien Rabiot horror foul.
The Argentinian keeper came flying out of his goal to protest Siebert’s lenient decision, running half of the pitch before confronting the official - earning himself a booking in the process.
With Cakir’s tendency to aggravate referees and Siebert’s no-nonsense approach to that exact behaviour, it’s no wonder this is only 4/1 at SkyBet.
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