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Preview: Serbia vs. Macedonia

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Matija Nastasić against Mirko Ivanovski from the first meeting; photo: ap.orgMatija Nastasić against Mirko Ivanovski from the first meeting; photo: ap.orgWith only pride on the line, both Macedonia and Serbia will look to conclude disappointing campaigns on a positive note when they play later today in Jagodina in the final matchday of the 2014 World Cup qualifications.

Manager Zoran Stratev will be forced to make at least two changes to the starting lineup for the Serbia game due to the absences of Goran Pandev and Vanche Shikov.  The former was allowed to withdraw and return to Napoli at the request of his club team, while the latter is out with a yellow cards suspension.  Boban Grncharov will get the start for Shikov, where he will partner Nikolche Noveski as the CB pairing, while Jovan Kostovski or Adis Jahovikj will get the nod for Pandev at CF.  Besides those two changes, Stratev could also be missing Mirko Ivanovski who has complained of an injury.  The injury is not believed to be serious but it's only been days since the Wales game so Mirko will be a game time decision.

In their first meeting that took place about a year ago, Macedonia was able to celebrate a minimal 1:0 victory over Serbia with Agim Ibraimi scoring the lone goal via a converted penalty kick.  Just like today's game, Goran Pandev also missed the first meeting which came as a result of a yellow cards suspension.  Darko Tasevski started for Pandev at that game, when Goran played attacking midfield and not the CF role that he occupied under the current interim manager Zoran Stratev.

This game may not mean much when it comes to the final standings, since Belgium and Croatia have already secured the top two spots in the group, but it will matter to Stratev who has made no secret that he also wants to lead Macedonia in the next qualifying cycle.  If the players lay an egg and seem disinterested, it will obviously hurt Stratev's chances of remaining at the helm.

The Serbian players have been quoted in newspapers as wanting revenge for the loss against Macedonia last year, so the Macedonian side must match the intensity in order to strive for a positive result.  When it comes to betting odds, Serbia is considered the firm favorite to down Macedonia.

The Serbia vs. Macedonia qualifier will be played at the home venue of FK Jagodina, which is the club team of Macedonian international Predrag Rangjelovikj.  FIFA has assigned Richard Trutz of Slovakia as the main referee with the match getting underway at 20:30 CET.

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