Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Nations League clash between Greece and Kosovo, including predictions, team news and possible line-ups.
Aiming to expand their perfect record in the UEFA Nations League this summer, Greece welcome closest group rivals Kosovo to Volos on Sunday.
Following the hosts’ 1-0 win in the Kosovan capital last week, the sides meet again at the Panthessaliko Stadio and the two sit clear at the top of the early stages of Group 2 in League C after midweek victories.
After Greece lost just one of their last seven home Nations League games after beating regional rivals Cyprus on Thursday, there is no doubt that Greece are determined to reach the second tier of Europe, having only lost promotion last time out had just missed.
This month, an opening win against Northern Ireland followed last Sunday’s 1-0 win over captained Kosovo Anastasios Bakasetas scored the winning goal both times.
The Trabzonspor midfielder then scored the opening goal against Cyprus in a 3-0 win on Thursday night, continuing a promising start for the well-travelled coach Gus Poyetwho was appointed after Greece failed to qualify for Qatar 2022.
The former Bordeaux manager has now won four of his first five games, including three in a row in the Nations League – a competition in which the Galanolefki have kept clean sheets in each of their last seven games.
Also unbeaten in each of their last nine games at League C level, they currently sit at the top of Group 2 and another win this weekend would put them six points clear of Sunday night’s opponents.
While Kosovo’s attempts to reach Qatar in 2022 have been rather dismal – bottomed in their group with just one win in eight games – a point against Greece both home and away showed the small Balkan nation can compete at the same level as they more established competitors.
On both occasions – in September and November last year – the Dardanet had a minority in possession and were under a lot of pressure from their Greek opponents, but persevered with a 1-1 draw.
Also part of the Greek group in the 2020-21 Nations League, they took Athens another point but lost at home as they finished a distant third in the final standings.
In their third campaign Alain GiresseThe country’s current side have got off to a brighter start, beating Cyprus 2-0 on Matchday 1 before bouncing back from last weekend’s defeat with a 3-2 win over Northern Ireland on Thursday.
Kosovo was a deserved winner at the Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri and took the lead Vedat Muriqi‘s early penalty before Zymer Bytyqi volley in a Milot Rašica Cross shortly after to double their lead.
Although their visitors conceded twice later in the game, Giresse’s men clinched all three points after another goal from Muriqi after the break; They are second in Group 2 of League C and head into the weekend.
Form of the Greek Nations League:
Form Greece (all competitions):
Form of the Kosovo Nations League:
Kosovo form (all competitions):
Just days after a dominant display against Cyprus, Greece coach Gus Poyet is likely to make some changes to his starting XI – especially now that he has a fourth game to play in 10 days.
As a right-back George Baldock He did well on his full debut in the second leg but retained his place in the hosts’ back four Lázaros Rota urges a call back.
Dimitrios Kourbelis is a strong contender for central midfield, while Celtic Giorgos Giakoumakis could return to the front as he competes with the current incumbent Vangelis Pavlidis for the role of centre-forward.
Meanwhile, Kosovo will be at the helm with Lazio outsider Vedat Muriqi having scored 20 goals in 41 caps with a brace against Northern Ireland.
He is joined in attack by wingers Milot Rashica and Zymer Bytyqi, who however live in Japan Benjamin Kolli is another option for coach Alain Giresse.
However, two regular players will be absent on Sunday as both are Torinos Mergim Vojvoda and Edon Zhegrova from Lille have been injured in the last few days.
Greece possible starting line-up:
Vlachodimos; Baldock, Mavropanos, Chatzidiakos, Tsimikas; Bouchalakis, Kourbelis; Limnios, Bakasetas, Douvikas; Giakoumakis
Kosovo possible starting line-up:
Ujkani; Kastrati, Rrahmani, Kryeziu, Rrudhani; Berisha, Zeneli, Dresovic; Rashica, Muriqi, Kololi
We say: Greece 3:1 Kosovo
Encounters between these two nations – which have been fairly frequent in recent years – have tended to be tightly contested, with Greece dictating play but their Kosovar counterparts often achieving a draw.
While the visitors have lost just one of their last six games, against Greece last week, the visitors can now complete the double in quick succession as they continue to thrive under new leadership.
For a data analysis of the most likely outcomes, goal scores and more for this game, please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com predict under 3.5 goals in this game. Click here to find out what else they predict for this game and for more of their football best tips.Under 3.5:Data