Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie square off as Portugal host the Netherlands in an international friendly on Wednesday at Estadio Algarve.
Van Persie earned the armband after new Holland head coach Louis van Gaal questioned the fitness of Wesley Sneijder. Even without one of their top players, Van Persie should be more than capable of taking the team’s reins. The Manchester United star leads a Holland club that hasn’t lost in a year with five goals, followed by four goals from midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.
Holding a slim two point lead over Russia on the UEFA Group F table, Ronaldo and Portugal face a stiff test before their next qualifier against Northern Ireland in a month. Unlike Holland, the Portuguese fell to Ecuador 3-2 back in February, but made up for the loss with victories over Croatia and Russia this year.
Defender Pepe is expected to join Ronaldo on the pitch, along with central midfielder Joao Moutinho and Fabio Coentrao. It will be the 105th cap for Ronaldo, and the superstar can pad his already stellar mark of 39 career international goals.
The Netherlands probably won’t ease up should they build a lead, but their seven point advantage over Hungary in the Group D table could mean limited time for Van Persie and Van der Vaart.
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The two clubs haven’t faced each other in a friendly in more than a decade, and Holland hasn’t claimed a win over Portugal since 1991.
TV Channel, Live Stream
The match kicks-off at 3:30 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast by ESPN Deportes, or watch a live online stream on ESPN3 here.
D Coentrao, Alves, Pepe, Neto
M Moutinho, Meireles, Veloso
F Ronaldo, Postiga, Varela
D Bline, Vlaar, Mathijsen, Janmaat
M Strootman, Van der Vaart, De Guzman, Van Ginkel
F Van Persie, Robben
Prediction: Portugal 3, Netherlands 2