Best odds: 31/10
Red Star Belgrade will welcome Tottenham Hotspur to their Rajko Mitic Stadium on Wednesday evening in the fourth round of the Champions League Group B. Spurs were very convincing against the Serbian champions two weeks ago in North London in a game they won by 5-0.
Vladan Milojevic’s side continue to stride towards another domestic title, and they’ve now won 13 of the 14 games they’ve played in the Serbian Super League so far this season. The one they didn’t win was a painful 2-0 defeat away to fierce city rivals Partizan, but they will have gotten over it by now with a 10-point advantage over the black-and-whites currently in place.
As for the Champions League, a good result here may give them a chance, a hope of progress to the knockout stages, which would be the first time a Serbian club has managed it since the competition was reorganized in 1992. It’s probably worth mentioning that Red Star actually won the European Cup in 1991, and that still gives them a huge sense of pride when they walk out on the biggest football stage on the continent. The visitors are likely in for a very different ride compared to the one they enjoyed in England.
At the moment, Red Star are in third place in the group with three points to their name, just one less than Spurs in second, two more than Olimpiacos in fourth.
Milojevic has no injury worries. He has the full squad to choose from, and it’s likely that Milan Pavkov, whose brace sunk Liverpool in Belgrade last year, will lead the line upfront. Marko Marin, former Chelsea attacking midfielder, will play a big part, as will probably Veljko Simic.
It has been an eventful time for the North Londoners since the two sides last met. They traveled to Liverpool twice, losing to the Premier League leaders at Anfield and drawing 1-1 against Everton at Goodison Park. Their season isn’t going nearly as well as they would’ve liked, and they currently sit in 11th place, with 13 points from 11 games.
It was expected that they would all but ensure passage to the next stage by now along with Bayern Munich, but while the Bavarians have practically done so, Spurs not only conceded seven against them at home, but they also dropped a two-goal lead against Olimpiacos. There’s obviously still a lot of work to be done for them to book a place in the round of 16, and this game is hugely important in that aspect. A win would pull them away from the Serbs and enable a calmer final stretch of the group stage.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino, who has found himself under severe pressure for the first time in his five years with the club, will have striker Harry Kane and defender Jan Vertonghen back for this clash after the duo missed the trip to Goodison Park due to illness and a thigh problem, respectively. Winger Son Heung-min was a doubt following a shock he suffered in an incident which resulted in Everton’s Andre Gomes getting his ankle broken, but the South Korean has traveled to Serbia and took part in training there, so he should be ready.
It has been already said that this would be a different game to the one we saw in North London. Spurs will have a much tougher task on their hands in the fiery atmosphere of the Rajko Mitic, one that is likely to catch them by surprise. The noise from the stands will likely help the home side get a very good result against, at least on paper, a much superior opponent.
Best odds: 31/10
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