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Preview: Macedonia vs. Belarus

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Macedonia vs. BelarusMacedonia vs. BelarusMacedonia resumes the EURO 2016 qualifications with a home clash against Belarus.

At the start of these qualifications, Macedonia's goal was to finish in 3rd place, a position that leads to a play-off spot. However, after only achieving 3 points from their opening four games, now the team's goal has shifted to finishing in 4th place ahead of Belarus and Luxembourg.

On Friday, Macedonia will have the opportunity to put some distance in front of Belarus when they host that national team. Both teams had similar expectations (fight for a 3rd place finish as previously noted), but disappointing results have prevented that from being a reality at this time. The only thing separating Macedonia and Belarus is that Macedonia got a late 3:2 win over Luxembourg, while Belarus could only muster a 1:1 home draw against that same opponent. So, Macedonia heads into Friday's qualifier with two extra points than Belarus. Otherwise, both of them have lost their other three games.

Belarus made a managerial change due to the slow start. Alyaksandr Khatskevich took over late last year and this match versus Macedonia will be his debut. Obviously, their players must prove themselves to the new manager if they want to be summoned in the future, so motivation should not be an issue. Macedonia must match that, and even exceed it, if it wants to collect a desired result which is a win. Both teams view this as a winnable game.

At today's press conference, Boshko Gjurovski showed up with central defenders Vanche Shikov and Bojan Markoski. Thus far, every player that has appeared at a press conference has started the game that follows the next day. In the last qualifier vs. Slovakia, back in November of 2014, Aco Stojkov showed up at the press conference with Gjurovski, and he started the match even though not many people expected Aco to get the start at that time.

Gjurovski with Shikov and MarkoskiGjurovski with Shikov and Markoski

So, based on that, this could be an indication that Gjurovski plans for Shikov and Markoski to be his CB pairing. Only the coaching staff and players know what formation Macedonia plans to use tomorrow, but nobody is talking. Gjurovski is very protective of that information, and the players have been told not to talk about those things to the media.

Macedonia did watch video of Belarus since they have played common opponents, so they will be relying on that to attack their weaknesses. Belarus is relatively unknown to most football fans in Macedonia, just like Macedonia is to football fans in Belarus. We will see which coaching staff is better able to come up with a game plan after analyzing video of their opponent.

The qualifier between Macedonia and Belarus will kick-off at 20:45 CET at the National Arena Philip II of Macedon. UEFA has assigned an English crew to officiate the match, led by main referee Anthony Taylor. The game will be broadcast by "MRT 1" in Macedonia and "Belarus 2" in Belarus.

What is your prediction for the game? Give us your formation and final score in the comments section.

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