Ukraine play out there final game of the year as they travel to Belgrade to face a wounded Serbia! This is the reverse fixture to that famous June night in Lviv when the Zbirna came out as 5-0 winners!
Ukraine have already qualified for EURO 2020 and are guaranteed to finish as group winners on top. But they still require a solitary point to ensure that they begin the final tournament draw as one of the top seeds in two weeks time!
It is Serbia’s first time playing the role of hosts against Ukraine, with all previous fixtures between the sides ending in wins to the Yellow & Blues! Based on the amount of games to win percentage, Serbia are Ukraine’s ‘favourite’ all time opponents. This will be the seventh meeting (if including games against Serbia’s predecessor; Serbia & Montenegro) or fifth if solely against the current incarnation of the Balkan state. The bogey team for the hosts is very much in town!
Both sides have very much different motivations going into this match. Serbia will be looking to avenge their humiliation in Lviv whilst Ukraine aim to secure a space in pot one. However, that is not all that avoiding a loss would entail. With at least a draw, Zbirna can secure a first ever unbeaten calendar year to their name! They went close last year but let themselves down in their final competitive fixture. Let’s hope there’s no repeat of that this afternoon!
The atmosphere within the stadium itself is going to be a strange one. Under 10,000 tickets have been sold for the Rajko Mitic stadium which holds just over a 55,000 capacity. Presumably most of those taken seats will be within the North stand, synonymous with the DELIJE of Crvena Zvezda.
The Ultras are notorious for creating a hostile mood and it can be expected that a few anti-Ukrainian chants and slogans will occur. Gasprom adorns the seats of the stadium elsewhere after all, so that says everything you need to know about where solidarity lies in the city and country as a whole!
Furthermore, due to the potential for conflict and ugly scenes between the two sets of opposing supporters, both FA’s mutually decided to not allow away fans to the respective fixtures between the countries. Serbia didn’t officially bring any to Lviv whilst Ukraine have done the same in Belgrade. However, it’s still expected that a number of Ukraine fans will make their way to the stadium this afternoon; albeit undercover!
Nevertheless, the Ukraine camp seem to be in high spirits as they have done throughout this qualifying campaign. The unity amongst the squad looks to have seriously aided the collective performances and this was none more evident against Portugal last month.
Shevchenko commented that it will be difficult without support but they need to remain professional and see the job out.
He also mentioned that Konoplyanka will be able to play if selected as he has returned from illness. The remaining 24 players also trained last night.
With Stepanenko serving a red card suspension in this game and Zinchenko recovering from knee surgery in Kyiv (estimated to be back in 2 weeks) , it’s still uncertain as to who the manager will pick to replace them. It could any one of Sydorchuk, Shepelev, Ivanisenia, Kovalenko and Bezus… Meanwhile to shore up one of the midfield spots, Malinovksyi has returned to the setup after the birth of his first child and will be looking to cap the occasion with a goal! Tsyhankov starred in the home game of this tie back in June with a double and having celebrated his birthday on Friday, he’ll be raring to Mark the occasion too!
Predicted Line Up:
У К Р А Ї Н О В П Е Р Е Д 🇺🇦