Serbia v Switzerland: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic could be the difference maker in key clashby Chloe Beresford / 22 June 2018, 08:38Tweet
Friday’s match between Serbia and Switzerland is set to be one of the closest and most significant matchups since the World Cup began on June 14th.
While fellow Group E members Brazil are still favourites to advance through to the knockout stages, the race to achieve the second qualifying spot is extremely close between these two sides.
While Mladen Krstajic’s men took three points versus Costa Rica in their opening match, the talent-laden outfit still have work to do in order to improve their performances. Meanwhile Switzerland managed an extremely admirable 1-1 draw with Brazil, a feat that will be tough for any of their group opponents to repeat.
“I am very happy, I am very proud of my players for their team effort and, without any false modesty, all of us highlighted the excellent atmosphere in the team,” revealed the Serbia boss after the match. "It’s the first time there are no clans or cliques within this squad of players.”
Perhaps such a declaration points to the fact that Krstajic - a novice boss - replaced Branislav Ivanovic with Aleksandar Kolarov as Captain not long before this tournament began, and it certainly seems like the national side are playing with the kind of team spirit he mentions.
Pictured: Mladen Krstajic, Serbia Manager
Yet after such a well-organised performance versus the Selecao, the Swiss are slight favourites with the bookmakers to win this clash. The likes of Bet365 and SkyBet offering 2/1 on both a Switzerland win and a draw, whilst a Serbia win comes in at 17/10. This highlights just how close this match is to call, with a positive result imperative for both teams.
Brazil certainly found Switzerland difficult to break down in the opening fixture, but Krstajic seems to have this covered. "Regarding Switzerland, we have analysed all three opponents and how they have played over the past few months,” admitted the Coach to reporters after their opening win.
“We know everything about Switzerland and now we will watch them against Brazil to make sure we don’t miss anything."
Both teams are expected to name unchanged lineups from their first match of the tournament, and one player to keep an eye on is Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The highly sought-after talent displayed exactly why teams are looking to spend £100 million plus on him during the current transfer window with two shots, three completed dribbles and having created three chances for team-mates during the match with Brazil.
Furthermore, the 23-year-old was deployed in his usual advanced position by Krstajic rather than the defensive midfield he occupied during the warm-up friendlies. With this in mind it is worth a look at a 5/1 bet via Bet365 which will pay out should Milinkovic-Savic score first or last versus Switzerland.
The Serbia boss may have had his eye on Friday’s opponents, but breaking them down may prove to be a different thing altogether.
Prediction: Serbia 2-2 Switzerland