Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Prediction: Serbia vs Wales

Verdict: Serbia

Best Odds: 8/11

Bookmaker: William Hill

Chris Coleman’s charges travel to Belgrade for a crucial World Cup qualifier against Group D leaders Serbia on Sunday night. Wales will face Slavoljub Muslin’s men without key man Gareth Bale and will be under great pressure to win in order to keep their hopes of grabbing the Russian visa alive.

Serbia

Having missed out on European Championship in France, Serbia kicked off the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a new face on the bench and a renewed hope that the high-quality side will finally be able to make it into a major tournament after a lengthy break. It was in South Africa in 2010 that Serbia last hit the international scene and Slavoljub Muslin faces a daunting challenge in guiding his men to Russia next year. Serbian Eagles relish their chances against the likes of Austria, Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Moldova and Wales and hope they will have what it takes to top the group. Serbia currently sit in first, level on points with the Republic of Ireland and are under pressure to beat Wales in order to remain in the driver’s seat. Serbia have fond memories of matches against Wales and will be hoping to record a result similar to their 6-1 win from 2012 in Novi Sad. Both teams have evolved since that time though but Muslin will be hopeful his team guided by Premier League stars Aleksandar Kolarov, Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic and Newcastle United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be able to dispatch Wales in Belgrade.

Team News

Benfica midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa was forced to withdraw from the national team due to injury and was replaced by FC Copenhagen man Uros Matic, brother of Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic.

PAOK striker Aleksandar Prijovic was handed his first-ever Serbia call-up, whereas Lazar Markovic was omitted.

Wales

The 6-1 defeat in Novi Sad five years ago served as a catalyst for Wales and manager Chris Coleman, who guided his team through enormous transformation over the following years. The Euro 2016 semi-finalists have since then emerged as a force to be reckoned with lead by Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, who could be sorely missed in Belgrade. Following their European Championship heroics, Wales have suffered a major dip in form over the past year. Even though they are unbeaten since that infamous Portugal loss, Welsh Dragons have won only one of their five World Cup qualifiers, drawing the remaining four. Locked in the third place, four points behind joint-leaders Ireland and Serbia, Wales need to win in Belgrade in order to close the gap and remain in the running for top-two finish. It will be easier said than done however, as Wales face a quality-packed Serbia squad, and an extremely motivated rival, but Coleman’s men would not be arriving to Belgrade wearing a white flag.

Team News

Liverpool forward ben Woodburn pulled out of the trip to Belgrade because of a calf injury and will be replaced by Marley Watkins.

Gareth Bale is unavailable through suspension, whereas WBA forward Hal Robson-Kanu is the latest withdrawal. Swansea City winger Daniel James takes his place in the team.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Wales drew last four FIFA World Cup qualifying matches
  • Dragons failed to keep a clean sheet in three of the last 4 games
  • Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in 13 of Serbia’s last 14 goals
  • Serbia lead Group D in front of Ireland due to goal difference
  • Wales have never beaten Serbia before

Conclusion

Group D leaders might have been rather inconsistent with their results recently, but Serbia boast a high-quality side packed with impressive individuals. Hosts are expected to put plenty of pressure on Wales, who still remember that 6-1 defeat from four years ago. We expect to see a closely-contested clash which will go down the wire.

Verdict: Serbia

Best Odds: 8/11

Bookmaker: William Hill

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