Best Odds: 21/20
Having missed out on Euro 2016 finals in France following the tumultuous qualifying campaign, Serbia start the new chapter by welcoming the 2016 European Championship participants Republic of Ireland at Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade on Monday.
Despite great records in youth selections and a star-studded team comprised of many a world-class players performing in Europe’s top clubs, Serbia has for years struggled to put their foot down at the international level. Having gone more than 15 years without an appearance at the European stage, Serbian national team is now shifting its attention to 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying that will see them fight for the Russian visa with the likes of Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Moldova, Austria and Wales. Republic of Ireland is first up on 5 September in a clash that will mark the competitive debut for new boss Slavoljub Muslin, who has so far led Serbia only in friendly internationals. Having taken charge of the national team from underperforming Radovan Curcic, the experienced managerial veteran who managed a plethora of club in the past is looking to put an early stamp on Serbia’s game and do his utmost to bring out the best of an undoubtedly quality-packed side that is at his disposal. The Eagles are without a defeat in their last four matches and will most certainly look to extend the positive trend in from of the home support.
Premier League stars Aleksandar Kolarov and Nemanja Matic are unavailable through red card suspension, but have been included in Serbia’s training sessions ahead of the Ireland game.
CSKA Moscow winger Zoran Tosic is struggling with fitness, while young Liverpool star Marko Gurjic, Benfica winger Andrija Zivkovic and Astana star Nemanja Maksimovic were loaned to Serbia’s under-21 team and will not be in contention on Monday.
Republic of Ireland
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland are coming off from a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, but the Boys in Green are able to draw plenty of positives from their showings in France. The 1-0 victory over Italy in the final match of the group stage was definitely the highlight moment of the entire campaign. Ireland fought well and played the best they can, but it was not enough to go past the round of 16 where they have been eliminated at the hands of hosts France 2-1. Ireland’s overall Euro 2016 performance was characterised by simple and effective football which they will be keen to replicate against Serbia as well. Prior to the game in Belgrade, Oneill’s men played a friendly match with Oman and a 4-0 victory served as farewell party for the iconic striker Robbie Keane who decided to call it quits at the international level. It remains to be seen whether the absence of the charismatic figure will have negative effect on the team atmosphere at the beginning of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Midfielder James McCarthy returned to his club Everton to recover from a groin injury that is likely to require a surgery. Harry Arter, Stephen Quinn and David Meyler are competing for McCarthy’s berth.
David Forde opted to stay with his new club Portsmouth and will miss the Serbia clash, while Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers will be in to back-up Darren Randolph and Kieren Westwood.
Key Factors to Consider
- Serbia lost only one of their last 5 home matches in all competitions
- Republic of Ireland managed only 1 win in their last five matches on the road
- Robbie Keane hung up his boots after 146 caps for Ireland
- Serbia’s key players Kolarov and Matic are suspended for the game
- Green Army are yet to beat Serbia both home and away
Forthcoming clash between Serbia and Republic of Ireland is holding huge importance for both sides, who will be looking to kick-start their respective campaigns. Serbian team is a more quality side filled with players competing at the highest level across Europe, and the game against Ireland might be the perfect opportunity for Muslin’s team to showcase its worth.
Best Odds: 21/20