Verdict: Poland win
Best Odds: 4/6
Desperate to open their Group E account and find an immediate response on Monday night, Poland will welcome Albania to the Stadion Narodowy.
Starting with the hosts, although Poland might have punched a World Cup knockout stage ticket over the winter, that was not enough to save Czeslaw Michniewicz’s job. Failing to make much of a statement in Qatar and eventually crashing out thanks to a 3-1 drumming at the hands of European heavyweights France, the Eagles also opened their qualifying campaign with a nightmare display. Coming under a huge amount of scrutiny as they were hit with a 3-1 loss away at the Czech Republic, new boss Fernando Santos really couldn’t have dreamt of a worse start to his tenure in charge. Although Poland might still have their sights set on finding a route out of Group E this year, the former Portugal manager faces what is a crucial showdown on Monday night. However, it should be noted, on what is a remarkable run, the Eagles have not suffered a single qualifying defeat on home soil in any of their last 16 appearances.
Limping off in the first-half of Poland’s 3-1 loss against the Czech Republic a few days ago, Aston Villa defender Matty Cash has withdrawn from the Eagles’ squad and returned home. Augsburg’s Robert Gumny should replace Cash at right-back.
Although attacking icon and international record-breaker Robert Lewandowski might have drawn a blank on Friday night, the 34-year-old will spearhead Poland’s attack here.
As for the visitors, although Albania might have managed to sign off 2022 with a routine 2-0 victory at home against Armenia, Sylvinho’s men have only continued to struggle with their consistency over the past 18 months. Mustering just a single victory from any of their last 11 straight appearances across all competitions, the former Corinthians boss knows that his side are tipped as a real outside contender to find a route out of Group E this year. While the Reds might be desperate to spring a major qualifying upset here, it should be noted that Albania have gained a reputation for their extended struggles on foreign soil. On a run that us highlighted by a 5-0 drumming at the hands of European giants England, Sylvinho’s squad have claimed just one win on their travels since way back in March 2021. Likewise, losing each of their last seven straight meetings against Monday’s hosts, Albania should be bracing themselves for a tricky test here.
Suffering a season-ending knee injury last year, Albania will once again be without attacking talisman and Chelsea striker Armando Broja on Monday night.
Likewise, Sylvinho will also be without Empoli defender Ardian Ismajli after the 26-year-old had to withdraw from Albania’s squad due to a recent injury issue. In what was a shock move, Mainz’s Xhuliano Skuka has not been included in this month’s squad.
Key Factors to Consider
- When Monday’s opponents last met back in October 2021, Poland claimed a 1-0 victory on foreign soil.
- In fact, the Eagles have now won each of their last seven straight showdowns against Albania.
- Poland are unbeaten in each of their last 16 straight qualifying appearances on home soil.
- Albania have failed to win any of their last six appearances on foreign soil.
- Likewise, Monday’s guests have clinched just a single away victory since back in March 2021.
Opening their qualifying adventure with a nightmare 3-1 loss away at the Czech Republic a few days ago, Poland will know that they have plenty of pressure on their shoulders. However, with the Eagles tipped as a standout pick on home soil, Santos’ new squad should also be excited by a rampant record against Albania. Claiming a 1-0 victory when they made the trip to Tirana back in October 2021, it should be noted that Poland have won each of their last seven straight showdowns against Monday’s guests. Likewise, with the Group E contenders not suffering a single qualifying defeat on home soil from any of their previous 16 appearances, we are backing the Eagles to claim a crucial response here.
Verdict: Poland win
Best Odds: 4/6
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