Sports Mole previews Friday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Moldova and Albania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Albania can seal their place at a second-ever major tournament with just a point away in Moldova in Euro 2024 qualifying on Friday.
Group E remains devilishly tight through, and a win for the hosts would blow the group wide open heading into the final matchday....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Both matches in Group E will contribute heavily to whether or not there will be everything or nothing to play for next Monday, but either way, there are plenty of permutations in a very intriguing group.
Albania lead the way and only need a point to secure their passage against either Moldova here, or against the Faroe Islands next week, making them huge favourites.
If Moldova were to lose here, they would need a draw in the group’s other match between Poland and Czech Republic, as a win over the Czechs next week would then put them through with Albania.
A win for Moldova and a draw in Warsaw would mean Serghei Clescenco’s side would then only need a score draw in the Czech Republic, as their head-to-head record would then take them through.
Wins for both Moldova and Poland on Friday would see just two points separate the four nations, making it one of the most close-fought qualifying groups in recent memory.
If Czech Republic win in Poland and Moldova fail to win here against Albania, then there will be an anti-climactic feel on the final matchday for the neutral though, as that would see Sylvinho’s side progress with the Czechs.
Albania therefore will feel extremely confident, given their two favourable fixtures and their recent results against the stronger sides in the group.
However, even though they come into this month’s internationals on the back of 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Poland and Czechia, respectively, there have been few patterns of form shown by any side in the group, meaning nothing can be ruled out.
Albania are the one side who can claim to have shown consistency though, as they have taken 13 points from a possible 15 since losing in Poland on matchday one.
That defeat in Warsaw meant they were on a streak of just one win in 12, but having only taken charge for the first time in that Poland encounter, Sylvinho has evidently made a huge difference, partnered by Pablo Zabaleta and Doriva as assistants.
Their fine showing has left them on the brink of reaching a second major tournament following their appearance at Euro 2016, except this qualification will not be shrouded in controversy.
Albania were helped massively by a 3-0 walkover away to Serbia and a points deduction for their Balkan neighbours after the visiting players were attacked on the pitch in Belgrade by Serbian supporters when a drone displaying a flag showing Kosovo as being part of Albania was flown over the pitch.
At the finals, Albania were unfortunate, exiting the group stage on goal difference despite winning their final group game against Romania.
It is Romania’s neighbours Moldova who could potentially stand in their way of making it to next summer’s finals if they can continue their fairytale campaign here.
Clescenco’s men have become national heroes given their exploits in this section, having drawn with Czechia before taking four points off Poland.
The current deficit would be even shorter if they were not frustratingly held to a draw by the Faroes on matchday one, being the only side to have dropped points against the group’s whipping boys.
Their only defeat in six group games came away in Albania, but on home soil they have been phenomenal, as their come-from-behind 3-2 win over Poland in June was one of the most famous in the nation’s footballing history.
Moldova Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Moldova form (all competitions):
Albania Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Albania form (all competitions):
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Manager Clescenco has picked the same group of players that has served him so well in this campaign so far, so they could be unchanged from the side that grabbed an unlikely point away to Poland last month.
Striker Ion Nicolaescu has returned from injury in the nick of time for his country, as the Heerenveen man had not featured since the match with Poland before making a 12-minute cameo last weekend against Vitesse, where he scored the clinching third goal.
The 25-year-old has been the pivotal man in the section for Moldova, scoring the equaliser against the Faroes, as well as netting three in their two matches with Poland.
Armando Broja is the surprise omission from the Albania squad despite his recent return from injury with Chelsea.
Like his opposite number, Sylvinho has opted to stick with the group that has took Albania to the brink of qualification, so they may also remain largely unchanged.
They will be forced into one change at least though, as Arlind Ajeti has withdrawn with injury, joining fellow defenders Marash Kumbulla and Enea Mihaj on the sidelines.
Ardian Ismajli is set to be the man to come in for the visitors, meaning Albania are likely to field seven Serie A-based players from the start here.Moldova possible starting lineup:Railean; Revenco, Craciun, Baboglo, Marandici, Reabciuk; Postolachi, Motpan, Rata, Cojocaru; Nicolaescu
Albania possible starting lineup:Berisha; Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsiti, Mitaj; Asani, Ramadani, Bajrami; Asllani, Cikalleshi, Seferi
We say: Moldova 0-2 Albania
While there is a chance Moldova could spring another surprise to leave both their’s and Albania’s chance hanging in the balance, they will find it tough against the group’s standout side.
Albania have been imperious since losing their opening qualifier, and should have minimal trouble in sealing their spot at next summer’s finals here.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data
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Preview: Leicester City vs. Plymouth Argyle – prediction, team news, lineups
Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Championship clash between Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
After both sides netted stoppage-time winners in their last fixtures, Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle will battle to make it back-to-back victories when they clash at the King Power Stadium in the Championship on Saturday afternoon.
The Foxes still have a healthy cushion between themselves and third place following the success at West Bromwich Albion, whilst the Pilgrims eased their faint relegation concerns with three points against Stoke City. ...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Heading into extra time at The Hawthorns a week ago, league leaders Leicester City were staring down the barrel of one win in their last five matches after West Brom’s Josh Maja scored a scrappy 89th-minute equaliser following Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s opener, however it would be the East Midlanders who would have the last laugh in the Black Country.
Carlos Corberan’s men ploughed forward in questionable numbers in pursuit of a winner and were punished for their lack of defensive care in the final stages, with playmaker Dewsbury-Hall turning the provider as the Foxes struck on the break, affording former England international Harry Winks a simple tap-in to send the away end into hysterics.
Victories for all of Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town, Daniel Farke’s Leeds United and Russell Martin’s Southampton made Leicester’s success in the West Midlands even more important, meaning the Foxes remain eight points clear of the third-placed Whites after 19 games of the second-tier campaign.
After back-to-back away games at Hillsborough and The Hawthorns yielded four points, Enzo Maresca’s side return to the King Power for the first time since their 2-0 success over Watford on November 25, when a late Jamie Vardy brace bailed out a sluggish display from the hosts.
The Foxes face four games against teams currently 15th or below in the table before a mouth-watering encounter with second-placed Ipswich on December 23, meaning those of a Leicester persuasion will be expecting to put 12 more points onto their impressive tally ahead of the trip to Portman Road.
Making a 100th appearance for his hometown club, midfielder Adam Randell was the hero of Home Park last time out as the 23-year-old scored a 97th-minute winner against Alex Neil’s out-of-form Stoke side, extending Argyle’s unbeaten home run to four matches.
The Green Army were facing the possibility of losing only their fourth home clash of the term when Tyrese Campbell netted for the Potters in the first half, however an equaliser from Sierra Leone’s Mustapha Bundu allowed local boy Randell the chance to snatch all three points for the hosts.
Steven Schumacher’s men currently occupy 16th position in the second-tier table after collecting a respectable tally of 22 points from their opening 19 matches, and although the Plymouth boss has been linked to the vacant managerial role at Sunderland following the departure of Tony Mowbray, the 39-year-old insists that he is at the “perfect place” to continue his development as a coach.
The clear reason why the Green Army have been unable to join the likes of the Black Cats in the chase of a top-six position is Argyle’s woeful away record, with Saturday’s visitors to the King Power failing to win any of their nine league outings, collecting just three points away from Home Park so far this season.
Since securing a permanent switch from Swansea City in the summer, Morgan Whittaker has scored eight goals in 19 Championship appearances for Plymouth this term, meaning the 22-year-old is one strike away from equalling the tally he managed during 25 League One games in 2022-23.
Leicester City Championship form:
Plymouth Argyle Championship form:
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After Kelechi Iheanacho was largely unimpressive during the narrow success at West Brom last time out, Vardy could be set for a spot in the starting XI, whilst summer arrival Thomas Cannon is waiting patiently for his opportunity in the Leicester attack.
Wilfred Ndidi produced a solid display alongside goalscorers Dewsbury-Hall and Winks in the Foxes’ engine room at The Hawthorns, meaning the Galatasary-linked midfielder will retain his place in the XI.
Marseca’s men will be without the services of influential defender Ricardo Pereira after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the term last weekend, with the versatile Hamza Choudhury a possible deputy at right-back.
Changes could be made on the flanks for Saturday’s hosts, with Abdul Fatawu pushing for a start alongside Vardy and Stephy Mavididi, at the expense of Kasey McAteer.
With Bundu finding the net against Stoke, Plymouth striker Ryan Hardie could find it slightly more difficult to force his way back into the starting XI following time out due to a hamstring injury.
Brendan Galloway started his first game since April at left-back as the Green Army saw off the Potters, however the 27-year-old could make way for Mickel Miller at the King Power.
Last weekend’s match-winner Randell could be rewarded with a starting spot in the East Midlands, with Schumacher potentially preferring the 23-year-old over more attack-minded players such as Luke Cundle and Finn Azaz.
Leicester City possible starting lineup:Hermansen; Choudhury, Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Ndidi, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; Fatawu, Mavididi, Vardy
Plymouth Argyle possible starting lineup:Cooper; Kesler-Hayden, Scarr, Gibson, Miller; Houghton, Cundle, Azaz; Mumba, Whittaker, Hardie
We say: Leicester City 2-0 Plymouth Argyle
Leicester will be delighted to be back at the King Power following two tricky Championship outings, where the home faithful will demand maximum points and a dominant display from the league leaders.
Plymouth are one of three sides in the Championship who are yet to taste success on the road this season, so we are expecting the Pilgrims to struggle in the East Midlands on Saturday. For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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Arsenal considering Viktor Gyokeres signing, scouted him more than once
Arsenal have been closely monitoring Sporting Lisbon striker Viktor Gyokeres ahead of a possible approach, according to Portuguese publication Record (page 14).
The Sweden international had a good stint in the Championship with Coventry City last term. He registered 22 goals and 12 assists from 50 appearances.
He was linked with a potential switch to the Premier League over the summer, but Sporting eventually won the race to sign him for €20 million plus add-ons.
It is now reported that the Gunners have scouted him more than once this campaign and they are now considering the possibility of landing his signature.
However, Sporting are quite clear that they don’t want to lose him in January unless any club is willing to trigger the hefty €100m release clause in his contract.
Arsenal linked with surprise move for Gyokeres
The 25-year-old was linked with a Premier League switch last summer after Coventry missed out on top-flight promotion to Luton Town via the play-offs.
West Ham United were the most interested English club in the Swede, but he chose to make the move to Sporting, who are currently top of the Primeira Liga.
Gyokeres has been pivotal for the club with 15 goals and seven assists from just 17 appearances and we are not surprised that Arsenal are monitoring him.
The Gunners already hold an interest in his teammate Ousmane Diomande, but any deal could be delayed until the summer with Sporting unwilling to negotiate in January.
A move for Diomande seems justifiable with his huge potential as a 19-year-old centre-back, but we believe there are better strikers that Arsenal could pursue over Gyokeres.
Gyokeres would be a good acquisition for a mid-table Premier League side, but the Gunners should aim higher and recruit someone like Victor Osimhen if they want to win titles.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
AC Milan ‘intensify efforts to sign Arsenal defender Jakub Kiwior’
AC Milan are reportedly set to step up their efforts to sign Arsenal’s Jakub Kiwior and are ready to open discussions over a possible move for the player in January....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
AC Milan are reportedly set to step up their efforts to sign defender Jakub Kiwior and are ready to open discussions with Arsenal over a possible move for the player in the January transfer window.
The 23-year-old arrived from Italian outfit Spezia in the last window but has not been able to nail down a regular starting role under Mikel Arteta during his time in North London.
Kiwior has made only five starts in all competitions over the last 11 months, with two of those coming in the Carabao Cup.
According to 90min, Kiwior is keen to play more regularly, and The Gunners are open to granting the defender a loan to move away from the Emirates Stadium in January.
The report adds that with the possibility of the defender becoming available in the New Year, AC Milan have emerged as one of the frontrunners to secure the 23-year-old’s services and are preparing to open discussion with Arsenal over a potential move.
It is understood that the Rossoneri are keen on a loan move for Kiwior, with the option to purchase him outright next summer.
The Serie A giants are also believed to be happy to agree with an obligation to buy the player next summer if it will help get the deal done.
AC Milan are expected to be active in the upcoming transfer market as they try to bolster their defensive line, with the likes of centre-backs Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu currently sidelined through injury.
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