EUROPE: Baltic Cup
Time: 5:00 PM
Venue: A. Le Coq Arena (Tallinn)
Estonia take on Latvia at the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn on Thursday evening in a winner-takes-all clash. The two sides are locked on points heading into the final round of fixtures in the 2020 Baltic Cup, which has been pushed back by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Latvia have won the biennial competition, contested between themselves, Estonia and Lithuania, a record 13 times. That includes a run of four successive triumphs since they last failed to lift the trophy in 2010, with Lithuania coming out on top that time around.
You have to go back to 1938 for the most recent of Estonia’s successes in the competition, but they can put an end to that run with victory on Thursday. The Wolves top the three-team group on goal difference after beating Lithuania 3-1 in their opening game last week.
Paulius Golubickas cancelled out Markas Beneta’s own goal, but second-half strikes from Eduards Emsis and Roberts Uldrikis earned Latvia all three points Estonia also beat Lithuania in their last Baltic Cup game through a Henri Anier strike on the hour mark in Vilnius, meaning that they trail Latvia by a goal in the group standings.
The Blueshirts followed up that victory over Lithuania with another 1-0 win against Finland – a side that have previously competed in the Baltic Cup themselves.That win over Euro 2020-bound Finland was secured thanks to Rauno Sappinen’s penalty with 59 minutes played, making it back-to-back wins for the first time since 2017.
Latvia faced a tougher opponent in their friendly on Monday, going down 7-1 to Germany at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf. That was a chastening experience for Dainis Kazakevics’s side, but all focus is on this showdown with Estonia and what could be a fifth Baltic Cup triumph in a row.
Thomas Haberli was only appointed in January and is still getting to know his Estonia squad, perhaps explaining why plenty of changes were made between the wins over Lithuania and Finland.
The hosts will name their strongest possible side for Thursday’s clash, however, which should see Sappinen and Anier partnered up top. After scoring the winner against Finland, FC Flora striker Sappinen now has six goals in his last 10 international appearances.
Latvia, likewise, will name their strongest XI for this match. Uldrikis has started both of this month’s fixtures and is expected to retain his place up top here.Igors Tarasovs and Vitalijs Maksimenko are among those pushing for recalls following the heavy friendly defeat to Germany earlier in the week.
- Estonia’s form in last 5 matches: WWLLL.
- Latvia’s form in last 5 matches: LWDLL
PREDICTION: Home/Draw and Under 4.5