Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 23/20
The Republic of Ireland are set to welcome Serbia to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Tuesday evening in Group A of the qualifications for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar next year. It should be an interesting contest between these two teams, after the previous one, played in Belgrade back in March, ended with a 3-2 triumph for the Serbs.
Having played four matches so far, things aren’t looking too good for Stephen Kenny’s men. The defeat in Belgrade was their first match of the campaign, and it was followed by a shocking one at home against Luxembourg. They lost that game by 0-1.
It seemed for a long time they would finally get their first win of the campaign when they played at home against Portugal last week, but after John Egan gave them the lead in the final minute of the first half, Cristiano Ronaldo decided not to allow it and scored a last-gasp brace to swing it for his team. The only point Ireland have got so far came on Saturday in Dublin, as Shane Duffy equalized with three minutes to go and helped his team avoid another embarrassment, after Emin Mahmudov opened the scoring for Azerbaijan.
Ireland and Azerbaijan now share the bottom two places in the group, each with a point and a goal-difference of -3. It’s now up to the Irish to try and improve their prospects against Serbia.
Kenny will be without the services of Everton defender Seamus Coleman through injury, which means Norwich City’s Andrew Omobamidele could start in a back line of three with Duffy and Egan.
Adam Idah should be leading the attacking line again, but Aaron Connolly, who was replaced at halftime against Azerbaijan, could make way for Daryl Horgan from the start this time. Jayson Molumby and Josh Cullen started in the middle of the park on Saturday, but Conor Hourihane will be hoping for a place in the lineup too.
Serbia are in a very different situation in the group.
They’ve also played four matches so far but they are yet to taste defeat. The opening-round win over Ireland, when a goal from Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic and a brace from Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic overturned an early Irish lead created by Alan Browne before James Collins set the final score, showed straight away that there is resilience and strong motivation in their ranks. That result was followed by a controversial 2-2 draw against Portugal, also in Belgrade, before they beat Azerbaijan in Baku by 1-2. They made easy work of Luxembourg in Belgrade on Saturday as Mitrovic bagged a brace and defender Nikola Milenkovic got on the scoresheet as well in a 4-1 triumph.
The team put together by Dragan Stojkovic now tops the group with 10 points, the same as Portugal in second, and four more than Luxembourg in third. The race to finish first is set to be an extremely interesting one.
With seven goals in his last four matches for Serbia, there is no doubt whatsoever that Mitrovic will be the main attacking point. Milenkovic should be in the back line again with Strahinja Pavlovic and Matija Nastasic, as Darko Lazovic and Filip Kostic push further up as wing-backs. There should be a place for Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as well, in support of Mitrovic.
Ireland were far from poor when the teams met in Belgrade, it should be said. However, it seems that at this point the Serbs are a bit too much for them to take, and Stojkovic’s team are likely to take all three points from Dublin.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 23/20
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