Netherlands visit Latvia for a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with coach Guus Hiddink still under considerable pressure to turn their fortunes around and Robin van Persie in sight of another milestone.
Hiddink has endured a disappointing second stint as national team boss since taking over from Louis van Gaal last year.
Netherlands are third in qualifying Group A and trail second-placed Iceland by five points with five games played, a substantial underachievement for a side that greatly impressed en route to the World Cup semi-finals in 2014.
However, with Hiddink’s men favourites to prevail in Riga on Friday and Iceland hosting group leaders Czech Republic, the Dutch have a big opportunity to close the gap.
The reverse fixture saw Netherlands hammer Latvia 6-0 at the Amsterdam Arena and they should be confident adding three more points to their tally away from home despite a disappointing friendly loss to United States last week.
Netherlands led 3-1 against Jurgen Klinsmann’s men but conceded three goals in the final 20 minutes to slip to a 4-3 defeat.
The defensive lapses from that game will have given Hiddink cause for concern but, with Memphis Depay on the scoresheet and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar netting twice, he is likely to feel much more comfortable about the situation up top.
One man with extra motivation to hit the target will be Manchester United striker and Netherlands’ record goalscorer Van Persie, who is one goal away from 50 for his country and scored the opener against Latvia in that hammering in the capital.
Tjaronn Chery, Davy Propper and Joel Veltman will not be involved in the game, however, after they were dropped from the squad by Hiddink following the reverse to the USA.
Last November’s qualifier with Latvia marked just the second meeting between the two sides, with the only previous encounter coming in Euro 2004 as Netherlands cruised to a 3-0 win.
Netherlands are fancied to make it three from three against the Baltic side, but Latvia can have some reason for hope having held Czech Republic to a 1-1 draw at home in their most recent qualifier.
Latvia have also earned a 1-1 stalemate against Turkey in a qualifying campaign of few highlights for Marians Pahars’ side.
Yet, while Netherlands have been far from impressive to date under Hiddink, the odds are that it will be another disappointing night for Latvia and a potential landmark one for the visitors’ leading marksman.
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