Serbia will play for their proud and their fans on Friday when they take on neighbours and bitter rivals Croatia in the World Cup qualifiers. The hosts are almost eliminated and the visitors could even climb to the top spot in Group A in case of picking up all three points from Belgrade.
At the start of the World Cup qualifiers Serbian coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has decieded to rely on young and very talented players. Nemanja Vidic, Milan Jovanovic, Nikola Zigic, Marko Pantelic, Dejan Stankovic are no longer part of the national team, while the likes of Filip Djuricic, Lazar Markovic, Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Ignjovski and Luka Milivojevic coming on the Serbian football scene. As a result, the Eagles are on the verge of elimination as they are currently sitting in third place in Group A, no less than 12 points adrift of group leaders Belgium. However, the lack of motivation should be the problem for the Serbian national team as they take on against their long-standing enemies Croatia in Belgrade. The Serbs are eager to take revenge on the Croats, who defeated them 2-0 earlier this year in Zagreb and a packed stadium is expected on Friday night. With Benfica star being recalled for this match, I believe that there is a big value in betting on the hosts.
Under coach Slaven Bilic Croatia were almost unbeaten in all competitions, but since Igor Stimac took over the reigns, Vatreni have been struggling to find their form. Nonetheless, the Croats are likely to secure their place in the World Cup play-offs as they currently occupy second place in Group A, three points behind Belgium. Igor Stimacˈs men arrive in Serbia following a shocking 1-0 to Scotland on home soil and they will be surely aiming to start a new winning run in the neighbourhood. Key player Luka Modric has been in a good form of late, starting all three matches for Real Madrid in the new La Liga campaign, but striker Mario Mandzukic has not started the new season in great manner. The Croats should be very nervous in Belgrade as they are not welcome in the capital of Serbia.I believe that the visitors are likely to return home empty-handed.