Tuesday 23 January 2018

Serbia duo put club rivalry aside

Aleksandar Kolarov had been a regular for Manchester City this season
Aleksandar Kolarov had been a regular for Manchester City this season

Aleksandar Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic will put their club rivalry aside to serve Serbia's cause this week.

The 28-year-old Manchester City defender and his Chelsea counterpart may be battling it out for the Barclays Premier League title on the domestic front, but will team up at international level on Wednesday night for a friendly against Ireland.

Kolarov picked up his first winners' medal of the campaign on Sunday as City came from behind to beat Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley and although his compatriot is determined to ensure he does not add a league title to that, none of that will be on their minds in Dublin.

The City full-back said: "It doesn't concern me. I have known [Branislav] since we were kids - I want to win the title, he wants to win the title.

"That's normal, but to be honest, we don't talk about things to do with our clubs a lot."

Ivanovic's Chelsea currently sit four points clear of second-placed Liverpool at the top of the table, with City a further two points and two places behind.

However, they have two games in hand on the three sides above them - which also include Arsenal - and Kolarov knows there is little margin for error as the season approaches its climax.

He said: "It will 100 per cent be very difficult to the very end because now we have played two games fewer, and we need to win them.

"It's very important we do that because we want to keep things in our own hands. We have 12 more games to play and every single one of them is going to be tough.

"This is the important stage of the season and we have to hold our nerve. It is the team that handles the pressure better that will win."

Ivanovic's future has been the topic of speculation in recent months, with big-spending Paris St Germain having been linked with him.

However, the 30-year-old, who has reportedly opened talks over a new deal at Stamford Bridge, insists he is content as he attempts to increase his medal collection under manager Jose Mourinho.

Asked if he was as happy as he has ever been at Chelsea, the Serbia skipper said: "I can say yes because, at the moment, the team is doing well and things are going right for us.

"We have improved as a team since the beginning of the season. It looks like we are a very strong team, but we have the potential to make and build an amazing team.

"Yes, I'm happy at the moment. But I prefer to look forward rather than back. You don't get a chance during your career to look back.

"You must be focussed. When I have finished my career, I will have time to look back and realise how successful I have been."

Serbia have been drawn in Group I for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign along with Portugal, Denmark, Armenia and Albania and acting coach Ljubinko Drulovic, who led the nation to European Under-19s glory last year, will take charge for the game at the Aviva Stadium following Sinisa Mihajlovic's departure.

Ivanovic knows exactly what to expect from the Ireland team after coming up against many of Martin O'Neill's players in the Premier League, and he is preparing himself for a battle.

He said: "We have played a lot of times against Irish players and those guys are tough.

"You have to be especially motivated always and we have to be aware of that when we play tomorrow night."

Press Association

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