Latvia vs. Moldova – prediction, team news, lineups

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Moldova must win in Riga if they are to stand any chance of leapfrogging their opponents into top spot in Group 1.

Match preview

Latvia coach Dainis Kazakevics pictured on March 27, 2021© Reuters

Having failed to gain promotion to League C in two previous attempts, Latvia will feel that they are on the cusp of competing at a level more befitting of their status should they confirm their promotion against Moldova on Thursday.

Latvia reached their lowest ever FIFA World Ranking when sliding to 148th in September 2017, but Dainis Kazakevics has overseen gradual progression since taking over in January 2020, culminating in them winning all four of their matches in the current Nations League campaign so far.

As such, even a draw against second-placed Moldova would be enough to see them climb into League C from the bottom tier. Finishing first would also improve their chances of securing a playoff spot for a chance to reach only the second European Championship in their history.

First things first, however, Kazakevics must ensure that his players avoid any complacency against their forthcoming opponents at Skonto Stadium. However, even if the worst was to happen in the form of a defeat, they would still have another bite at the cherry to put things right away to Andorra on Sunday.

Moldova's Ion Nicolaescu celebrates scoring their first goal on March 25, 2021© Reuters

Moldova, meanwhile, were relegated from League C last time out in this competition, after only picking up one point from six games against Slovenia, Greece and Kosovo.

Since taking over earlier this year, Serghei Cleșcenco has struggled to make a positive impact with the country he earned 69 caps for during his playing career, only winning two of his eight matches in charge so far.

His side’s 4-2 defeat at home to Latvia in June has left them needing to win the return leg in order to have any chance of bouncing back to League C at the first attempt, while failing to top the group would also make it incredibly difficult for them to have any chance of reaching a maiden major international tournament unless they can pull off something special in next year’s routine qualifiers.

With Moldovan football reaching an all-time low when plummeting to 182nd in the FIFA World Rankings just months before Clescenco’s appointment, the 50-year-old will desperately be hoping to provide his nation with a lift by gaining an away win on Thursday ahead of a very winnable home match against Liechtenstein on Sunday.

Team News

Andorra's Max Llovera in action against Moldova in their Euro 2020 qualifier on June 8, 2019© Reuters

Krisjanis ZviedrisEmils BirkaDaniels Balodis and Maksims Toņisevs will all be hoping to make their international debuts against Moldova on Thursday.

However, given the amount riding on this match, Kazakevics could name the same starting XI which comfortably dispatched Liechtenstein in June, with any potential changes more likely to be made against Andorra at the weekend providing that his side get the job done against Moldova first and foremost.

Moldova, meanwhile, has brought seven different players into their squad compared to the previous one, including Pisa midfielder Artur Ionita.

With Vadim Rata suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards, Ionita could earn his 62nd cap in midfield against Latvia on Thursday, with Cleșcenco otherwise retaining the bulk of the starting XI which defeated Andorra 2-1 last time out in June.

Latvia possible starting lineup:
Steinbors; Savalnieks, Cernomordijs, Dubra, Jurkovskis; Ikaunieks, Zjunins, Tobers, Ciganiks; Gutkovskis, Uldrikis

Moldova possible starting lineup:
Railean; Craciun, Bolohan, Armas; Jardan, Ionita, Caimacov, Reabciuk; Motpan, Nicolaescu, Cojocaru

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