Friday 22 September 2017

Dublin clash could be biggest game in our history, admits Ivanovic

'former Chelsea full-back Ivanovic realises their visit to Dublin could influence whether they hold on to top spot and the one automatic finals ticket' Photo: Sportsfile
'former Chelsea full-back Ivanovic realises their visit to Dublin could influence whether they hold on to top spot and the one automatic finals ticket' Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Serbia skipper Branislav Ivanovic knows the perfect way to set up an historic occasion in Dublin on Tuesday is by accounting for Moldova tonight.

Irrespective of how co-leaders of Group D Serbia and Ireland get on in today's fixtures, Tuesday's game will constitute a top-of-the-table clash.

Three successive failed qualification campaigns have left the Serbian public wary of concentrating on next summer's World Cup but former Chelsea full-back Ivanovic realises their visit to Dublin could influence whether they hold on to top spot and the one automatic finals ticket.

"Our aim is to stay top of the group by winning our remaining games and that starts against Moldova," said the Zenit defender.

"As Ireland are on the same amount of points, a lot will depend on our game in Dublin, which will be the biggest in our history."

His boss, Slavoljub Muslin, insists he won't use the game against the group's bottom side to spare four of his regulars from incurring a booking which would rule them out of the Ireland test.

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic is one of the quartet walking a suspension tightrope along with Dusan Tadic, Jagos Vukovic and Stefan Mitrovic.

"There is no selection dilemma for me," said the Serbia boss, their 10th in the last 12 years.

"Moldova will be better prepared for us than our last meeting and we must start a team capable of getting the three points.

"I don't see any reason to change what has served us well by getting us to first place.

"Going into the match against Ireland with another win would give us plenty of confidence so it is vital we concentrate on this task."

Muslin will be without Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic and first-choice goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic tonight but indicated the pair will start in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi is targeting victory over Group G rivals Spain to continue his dream of participating in a fourth World Cup.

The Azzurri travel to face Spain at Real Madrid's Bernabeu tonight (7.45) with both nations locked on the same number of points at the top of the group.

"They're the favourites but we're not going there as sacrificial lambs," Roma midfielder De Rossi said.

"I dream of playing at my fourth World Cup, it would be the final one for me and a great adventure."

Irish Independent

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