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Portugal face a do or die game against Israel in their penultimate World Cup qualifying game in Lisbon knowing a defeat would almost certainly end their hopes of winning Group F and consign them to the play offs.
The Portuguese head into the game one point behind Russia and a win over Israel would at least ensure Portugal finish no lower than second, so they could still progress through to the play-offs.
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With Russia facing tricky away trips to Luxemburg and Azerbaijan in their final two games Portugal maintain a glimmer of hope however Cristiano Ronaldo has called on his side to focus on their own games.
“I am confident in the victory,” the Real Madrid forward said.
“They are two games we have to win, we are the favourites and we will get on the field and give the best to ensure the six points.
“We just have to win both games and see what Russia does.”
Portugal, winners of 5 of their 8 group games to date, have lost just one in the group, a shock reversal at home to Northern Ireland. Since they however they have not lost a competitive match since October 2012 and host Israel, who sit five points back in third, having won three matches on the trot.
They will head into the crunch clash without suspended duo Fabio Coentrao and Helder Postiga, while Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira, Miguel Lopes and Raul Meireles are all missing through injury.
Israel let slip a 3-1 lead when they sides met in Tel Aviv and have not won since a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in March drawing with Azerbaijan and losing to both Russia and the Ukraine in that time.
Table toppers Russia face a seemingly routine task away to Luxemburg although Fabio Capello will not be taking anything for granted after his side’s shock 1-0 loss away to Northern Ireland in August.
Luxembourg have won two of the last three games beating Lithuania at home 2-1 in a friendly and following that up with a 3-2 win over Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland meanwhile currently lie fourth in the group on six points and will be out to finish strongly starting with a win away to Azerbaijan.
Michael O’Neill’s side have been very inconsistent throughout the campaign following up impressive results against Portugal and Russia with dropped points at home to Friday’s hosts and Israel.
With a new contract up for discussion the former Shamrock Rovers manager, with just one win in his 12 games in charge so far, will be hoping that his side finish the group strongly. The two sides drew when they met in Belfast in November 2012 with David Healy rescuing a point for the Northern Irish with a 96th minute goal.
Northern Ireland make the trip without experienced defender Aaron Hughes and Aberdeen striker Josh Magennis both of whom have been ruled out witth Rory McArdle and Andy Little coming in as replacements.
Palermo forward Kyle Lafferty is banned for the match, but should return for his country’s final qualifier away to Israel on Tuesday.
Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts meanwhile has one eye on the 2016 European Cup qualifiers as he names a young squad for the game. Branimir Subasic and Aleksandr Chertoganov have not made the cut, despite having almost 100 international caps between them while Captain Rashad Sadygov is the only player in the squad over the age of 30.