Netherlands travel to Riga on Friday seeking a crucial win to put themselves back into contention for the top two in European Championship qualifying group A.

us holThe current standing of group A sees Czech Republic on top with 13 points, Iceland in second with 12, and Netherlands back in third, six points adrift of the top. With Iceland and the Czech Republic meeting each other on Friday it is crucial that Netherlands beat Latvia in order to close the gap, with tougher ties to come later in the year.

The pressure is even higher on coach Guus Hiddink after the 4-3 defeat to the USA last Friday which saw Netherlands throw away a 3-1 lead with 20 minutes left in Amsterdam. The defeat was Hiddink’s fifth in nine games since taking over from Louis van Gaal last year, and another poor result in Latvia would leave the coaches position under serious jeopardy.

A number of changes are set to be made from the team which was defeated last week with Stefan de Vrij set to come back into the centre of defence alongside Bruno Martins Indi, while Daley Blind will move into midfield so Jetro Willems can play left back. Wesley Sneijder and Blind will replace Jordy Clasie, who has pulled out of the squad with a stomach problem, and Georginio Wijnauldum in midfield, while Luciano Narsingh will start on the right wing.

Ron Vlaar was expected to play, but succumb to a calf injury during the week, while Tjaronn Chery, Davy Propper and Joel Veltman were all sent home by Hiddink after the defeat to the US. Memphis Depay recovered from a foot injury earlier in the week and should start on the left wing.

Netherlands XI (4-2-3-1): Cillessen, Van der Wiel, Willems, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Blind, Sneijder, Narsingh, Depay, Van Persie, Huntelaar

Latvia are yet to secure a victory during their campaign so far, and were swept aside 6-0 when they traveled to Netherlands last year. However Latvia have proved to be a tricky opponent in Riga, holding both the Czech Republic and Turkey to 1-1 draws, and Netherlands will need to be careful not to underestimate their opponent.

Previous Meetings: Netherlands and Latvia have met twice with the 6-0 win last November their second victory after the 3-0 win during the 2004 European Championships.

Will Netherlands get back into contention or is it goodbye Hiddink?

Friday’s tie in Latvia is shaping up to be the most crucial so far in Hiddink’s second spell in charge of Netherlands. A defeat or draw would be catastrophic for Netherlands chances of finishing in the automatic qualifying positions, and could even allow Turkey to climb into third, but a win would make the Oranje the favourites for the group again with home ties against Iceland and the Czech Republic to come.

Against the USA, Netherlands dazzled at times going forward through Memphis Depay and Klaas jan Huntelaar, and that will give Hiddink confidence going against a Latvia side that will look to sit back and hit on the counter, while captain Robin van Persie will be determined to net his 50th international goal.

Hiddink will stress to his players the importance of a big win, and an early goal should set Netherlands on their way to victory, and keep the coach in his job for now.

Prediction: Latvia 0-3 Netherlands




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