Portugal can move a step closer to securing qualification for Euro 2016 on Saturday when they take on Armenia at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium.
The Portuguese currently top Group I, while there have been contrasting fortunes for the home side, who prop up the standings after four matches.
Armenia’s midfielder Gevorg Ghazaryan, Armenia’s defender Levon Hayrapetyan and Armenia’s midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrate scoring during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group I qualifying match of Denmark vs Armenia on September 7, 2014
The 2-1 defeat to Albania last time out proved to be one too many for the Armenian Football Federation.
Bernard Challandes offered up his resignation after that loss and received no resistance, meaning that after 14 months at the helm, the Swiss boss was out of a job.
The man charged with the remit of restoring some pride is interim coach Sargis Hovsepyan, who is Armenia’s record appearance maker with 131 caps to his name.
Ahead of the meeting with Portugal, it appears to be a thankless task for Hovsepyan. Armenia have not won a competitive fixture since October 2013, with their last friendly victory being picked up over a year ago against the United Arab Emirates.
On a more positive note, the Havakakan do have a good recent record where home European Championship qualifiers are concerned. Not since the Republic of Ireland won in the former Soviet nation back in 2010 have they tasted defeat – a run that stretches back five games and three victories.
In terms of the ongoing qualifying campaign, they have collected just one point from a possible 12.
Recent form: WLLDLL
Recent form (all competitions): LLDLLL
Greece’s Portuguese coach Fernando Santos is pictured during a group C football match between Colombia and Greece at the Mineirao Arena in Belo Horizonte during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 14, 2014
Since first qualifying for the European Championships in 1984, the Portuguese have reached at least the quarter-finals in each of their six appearances at the tournament.
In charge of ensuring that they qualify for a seventh time is Fernando Santos, who has previously coached Portugal’s three biggest clubs – Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon.
A Seleccao das Quinas have won all three of the qualifying encounters that the 60-year-old has taken charge, which has banished the disappointment of the 1-0 home defeat inflicted by Albania at the start of the group campaign. It was the last match at the helm for Paulo Bento, who was sacked soon after.
However, while Portugal have returned to winning ways under Santos, goals have not exactly been free flowing. In six matches, his side have found the net as many times, meaning that there has been criticism from some supporters over a perceived lack of entertainment on the pitch.
They have the chance to put that right against Armenia, with a win strengthening their grip on top spot in the standings.
Their away form in Euro qualifiers would suggest that a victory is likely, having won on their last four trips in a row.
Recent form: DWLWWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWL
Pepe reacts during the Portugal training session ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Group G match between Germany and Portugal held at the Arena Fonte Nova on June 15, 2014
Santos will be without the services of Real Madrid’s experienced centre-back Pepe, who has been nursing a thigh injury over recent weeks.
His omission has resulted in a first senior call-up for Sevilla’s Daniel Carrico, although he may have to wait for his debut, with a place on the bench most likely.
Further up the pitch, captain Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to start, as will his former Manchester United teammate Nani.
As for the home side, their attack will include Borussia Dortmund playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Armenia possible starting lineup:
Berezovsky; Mkoyan, Arzumanyan, Hayrapetyan, Voskanyan; Ghazaryan, Mkrtchyan, Hovhannisyan, Pizzelli, Mkhitaryan; Movsisyan
Portugal possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Coentrao, Fonte, Alves, Eliseu; Tiago, Carvalho, Moutinho, Nani; Ronaldo, Eder
Head To Head
Portugal and Armenia have met five times before, with the former of those two nations having won on three occasions.
As for Armenia, they are still awaiting their first victory, with two draws to show for their efforts.
When the sides faced each other in the Algarve earlier in the qualifying campaign, Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 triumph for the Portuguese. It was the talisman’s second goal against Armenia, having also scored against them during a qualifying game in 2007.[review]