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Preview: Luxembourg vs. Macedonia

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Luxembourg vs. Macedonia PreviewLuxembourg vs. Macedonia PreviewMacedonia resumes its EURO 2016 qualifying campaign on Saturday with a road fixture against Luxembourg.

The Macedonian delegation departed for Luxembourg on Friday morning. They will arrive there later in the day, and the team will hold one training before tomorrow's game. Manager Ljubinko Drulovic will have 20 players at his disposal.

Goalkeepers (3): Tome Pachovski, Stole Dimitrievski, Daniel Bozhinovski

Defenders (7): Stefan Ristovski, Vladica Brdarovski, Vanche Shikov, Daniel Mojsov, Kire Ristevski, Leonard Zuta, Ezgjan Alioski.

Midfielders (7): Nikola Gligorov, Milovan Petrovic, Aleksandar Trajkovski, Agim Ibraimi, Stefan Ashkovski, Muarem Muarem, Besart Abdurahimi.

Forwards (3): Mirko Ivanovski, Bazhe Ilijoski, Krste Velkoski

As a reminder, Arijan Ademi, Jovan Kostovski and Goran Siljanovski are out with injuries, Vladimir Dimitrovski was withdrawn due to disciplinary reasons, while Ferhan Hasani is suspended (two yellow cards in previous match).

Macedonia and Luxembourg will be meeting for the second time in these qualifications. Back in October of 2014, Macedonia celebrated a dramatic 3:2 victory with the game winner coming in stoppage time of the 90 minute, courtesy of a great strike by Besart Abdurahimi. That is the only win, and points, that Macedonia has amassed in the EURO 2016 qualifications. The other five matches have resulted in five losses.

This clash on Saturday has the classic makings of a trap-game. Macedonia plays Spain on September 8, in what should be a spectacle on the country's Independence Day, but Luxembourg stands in the way before that. Will the players overlook Luxembourg and think ahead towards Spain? Such approach could be fatal as no team can be underestimated these days. Plus, what has Macedonia, or these players for that matter, done to disrespect an opponent? Luxembourg already proved to be tough to beat at Skopje, and things will not get easier when facing them on the road.

Ljubinko Drulovic warned his players not to underestimate Luxembourg. We'll see whether they adhere to his message.

At Thursday's press conference, Drulovic noted that he knows which players will start the game, but he would not share that information to the media. He didn't want to give Luxembourg an advantage by them knowing the starters days in advance. Instead, Drulovic would only say that Mirko Ivanovski will start at center-forward. Ivanovski and Drulovic attended the presser.

Drulovic and Ivanovski at Thursday's presser; photo: FFMDrulovic and Ivanovski at Thursday's presser; photo: FFM

Besides Ivanovski, other guys that are pretty much locks to start (barring injury) include Tome Pachovski, Stefan Ristovski, Vanche Shikov, Aleksandar Trajkovski and Agim Ibraimi. Furthermore, since Nikola Gligorov and Milovan Petrovic are the only defensive midfielders on the current squad, they should be fielded at that position in Drulovic's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

The biggest question marks are the left side of defense and left winger. Who will be deployed next to Shikov at central defense? Options include Daniel Mojsov, Kire Ristevski and possibly Leonard Zuta (if Drulovic wants more speed). In that scenario, with Zuta inside at left CB, Ezgjan Alioski would be the choice at left-back. Still, the favorite to start at left CB is Mojsov, while Zuta holds the edge at left-back.

Meanwhile, left winger is completely wide open. Four players are competing there in Muarem Muarem, Stefan Ashkovski, Besart Abdurahimi and Krste Velkoski. This is the toughest position to predict. Abdurahimi and Muarem play little for their club teams, Velkoski has never done well for the national team, while Ashkovski is a first time call-up. It's truly a toss-up who Drulovic plans to start there.

Possible starting 11Possible starting 11

As for Luxembourg, the majority of its players feature in their domestic league. In these qualifications, they have compiled just one point in a 1:1 home draw against Belarus, back in September of 2014. Luxembourg recently beat Charleroi, the club of Gjoko Zajkov, 4:1 in a friendly match on September 1. The hosts will be aiming to beat Macedonia and escape the bottom spot on the standings in Group C.

Macedonia's last trip to Luxembourg does not hold good memories. In a friendly match in February of 2012, Luxembourg beat Macedonia 2:1. Maurice Deville scored both goals and that player is on the current roster of Luxembourg.

Which team has more pride? That's what this game will come down to. It's about avoiding last place. Macedonia finished bottom of the group in the 2014 World Cup qualifications, so finishing in last place again would be disastrous.

Luxembourg vs. Macedonia kicks-off at 18:00 CET on Saturday. Lee Evans, a referee from Wales, was appointed by UEFA to officiate the match.

Below, let us know which starting 11 you would use and your score prediction.

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