Serbia will get its World Cup qualifying campaign back on track tomorrow as they take on minnows Moldova and then Austria on Sunday. In Serbia’s first match, they only managed a tie versus a solid, but very defensively minded Republic of Ireland side.
Anything but the full three points versus Moldova tomorrow will be a huge letdown.
Will the strikers finally come back to life?
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Nikola Stojiljkovic and Andrija Pavlovic have all had terrible starts to their campaigns. A match versus Moldova could be just what they doctor ordered for all three. Whoever gets the start for Serbia as the striker will need to showcase what he can do. Scoring against a weaker team such as Moldova could do wonders for their confidence going forward, for both country and club. Mitrovic was disappointing in Serbia’s match against Ireland, so expect Pavlovic to get the start.
Predrag Rajkovic was the number one keeper last game due to an injury that Vladimir Stojkovic picked up, but expect the latter of the two to get the start in net, due to his 10 years of experience with the national team. Rajkovic showed potential and outstanding reflexes vs Ireland, but he also had some blunders that he will need to clean up.
How rest of the team shapes up
Aleksandar Kolarov is back from a one game suspension that he served vs Ireland, and expect to see him in the starting XI. However, I would like to see him play as a centreback, the same way he has been playing for Manchester City, for the most part this season.
Nemanja Radoja was a late addition to the Serbian squad because of Nemanja Maksimovic’s injury and do not be surprised if Muslin has him as a starter in the match vs Moldova, although it is unlikely.
The biggest question mark could be who starts as the striker. If you ask me, it should be Pavlovic. Pavlovic came on vs Ireland and put in a great shift with his energy and ability to attack the opposition. He did miss a sitter that he should have buried, which would have given Serbia all three points.
My starting XI vs Moldova (5-4-1)
What to expect in the match vs. Austria
Austria will probably be the favourite to win the match, but that does not mean that Serbia cannot defeat a very balanced Austrian side. Kostic and Tadic were spectacular in Serbia’s first match and they will need to continue their dominance, if Serbia has any chance at winning.
The backline cannot have mental lapses like the ones they have had in the past few matches. Tight man marking on Arnautovic and Alaba is necessary. Once either player receives the ball, there should be a defensive midfielder or defender within a few feet of either player due their ability to attack.
Finally, Serbia cannot give away cheap free kicks in dangerous areas because opponents have shown that they can exploit Serbia in the air.
My starting XI vs Austria (4-2-3-1)
An easy win vs Moldova is necessary for the team and the team’s morale as a whole. If we can get our strikers going in the first match, it could do wonders in the second match vs Austria. I feel Serbia should pick up a minimum of four points in these two matches. Moldova should be a win and at least a tie against Austria is imperative. However, if we do play to our full potential, I feel that we can take down Austria, too, especially when you consider the match will be played in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade.
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.