Preview: Albania vs. Azerbaijan – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday’s friendly clash between Albania and Azerbaijan, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Albania conclude their preparations for Euro 2024 with a friendly fixture against Azerbaijan at Haladas Stadion in Hungary on Friday night.

The two nations do battle for the first time since November 2011 when Azerbaijan claimed a slender 1-0 friendly victory.

Match preview

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Albania have surprised many since the arrival of head coach Sylvinho in January last year and they are now gearing up for just their second-ever major tournament following an impressive Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

The Red and Blacks topped their group with 15 points, finishing above Czech Republic and Poland in third, before ending 2023 on a high by winning three consecutive matches in all competitions by an aggregate score of 7-0.

Albania then failed to win any of their first four matches at the start of this year, including back-to-back losses to Chile and Sweden during March’s international break, but they returned to winning ways at a crucial time on Monday when they eased to a 3-0 friendly success over Liechtenstein.

Sylvinho, formerly of Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City in his playing days, is hoping to keep spirits high in his Albania camp and lead the nation to their first win over Azerbaijan since a 2-1 friendly victory back in August 2005.

Victory on Friday would give Albania, ranked 66th in the world by FIFA, a real boost ahead of their daunting trio of Euro 2024 Group B fixtures against Spain, Croatia and holders Italy, facing the latter in their first match on June 15.

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Unlike Albania, Azerbaijan’s wait to advance to a major tournament goes on after they were forced to settle for a fourth-placed finish in Group F of Euro 2024 qualifying at the end of last year.

Milli Komanda won only two of their eight group fixtures and accumulated just seven points in total, finishing 12 points adrift of both Belgium an Austria in the top-two automatic qualification spots.

Gianni De Biasi was relieved of his duties following a heavy 5-0 defeat against Belgium to conclude 2023 in disappointing fashion, but Azerbaijan have since made unbeaten start to 2024 under caretaker boss Arif Asadov, following up a narrow 1-0 win over Mongolia in March with a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria three days later.

Ranked 112th in the world by FIFA, Azerbaijan will soon be preparing for a fixture against Kazakhstan next Tuesday, but they must first turn their attention to Friday’s clash with Albania, a side that they have beaten just once in four previous meetings.

Asadov is tasked with improving Azerbaijan’s form on the road as they have only won four of their last 14 international matches away from home, conceding 27 goals in the process.

Albania form (all competitions):

Azerbaijan form (all competitions):

Team News

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Albania boss Sylvinho used 17 different players during the victory over Liechtenstein on Monday and he may be tempted to experiment with his side in a few positions once again on Friday.

Jasir Asani, Ernest Muci and Chelsea’s Armando Broja were all on the scoresheet last time out and will hope that they have done enough to retain their places in the starting lineup.

Experienced goalkeeper Etrit Berisha recovered from a chest injury to start in goal on Monday and he is expected to keep the number one jersey ahead of Brentford’s Thomas Strakosha, while Lazio’s Elseid Hysaj and 50-cap Grasshoppers man Amir Abrashi are both set to feature in some capacity.

As for Azerbaijan, Elvin Cafarquliyev has not been called up to the senior side this month, so Toral Bayramov – one of five Qarabag FK players selected in the 24-man squad – could be handed a start at left-back.

Captain Emin Mahmudov is just one goal away from drawing level with Gurban Gurbanov (14) as the nation’s all-time leading scorer, and he is in contention to start in an advanced-midfield role in behind either Ramil Sheydayev or Musa Qurbanli.

Albania possible starting lineup:
Berisha; Hysaj, Ismajli, Ajeti, Mitaj; Asllani, Gjasula; Asani, Bajrami, Manaj; Broja

Azerbaijan possible starting lineup:
Mahammadaliyev; Mammadov, Mustafazada, Huseynov, Bayramov; Kokcu, Diniyev, Mahmudov, Ozobic; Dadashov, Sheydayev

We say: Albania 2-0 Azerbaijan

Both nations will fancy their chances of claiming a positive result from Friday’s fixture, but considering the recent rise of Albania and the importance a victory could have on their preparations for Euro 2024, we believe that Sylvinho’s side will find a way to come out on top.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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