In a few hours, the joint leaders of Group A in UEFA World Cup Qualification will meet for what is sure to be a thrilling encounter in Belgrade.
Both Serbia and Belgium enter the match with one draw and one victory respectively, having both comfortably defeated Wales and drawn their other match of the group so far.
Serbia, while mauling a very poor Wales squad 6-1 last month, showed some defensive frailties against Scotland and may struggle against a very dynamic and well-organized Belgium.
The home side, who have qualified for the previous two World Cups and are consistently one of the top sides in Eastern Europe, will be expected to put on a strong performance at home, but lack the star-power to truly light up a match against strong competition.
The four recognized strikers called-up by Siniša Mihajlović share only one goal between them, coming from probable starter Miralem Sulejmani who is still goalless for Ajax this campaign.
In fact, Serbia’s real attacking threat will mostl likely come through fullbacks Branislav Ivanović and Alecksander Kolarov, who both ply their trade at two of England’s wealthiest clubs. CSKA Moscow midfielder Zoran Tošić, second-highest capped player in the side (44), will also be one that the Belgian defense must keep an eye on with his goalscoring capability and neat build-up play.
The visitors, on the other hand, possess one of their strongest squads in decades.
Attacking midfielders Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard were two of the most expensive transfers of the summer, joining Zenit St. Petersburg and Chelsea for over 70 million Euros combined. Marouane Fellaini–injured in his last match for Everton and not appearing in either of this month’s two qualifiers–is developing into one of the most dominant midfielders in Europe. And, Moussa Dembélé and Vincent Kompany proved last season to be the bedrock of strong campaigns for their club teams in England, the latter captaining Manchester City to the EPL title.
Belgium does have it’s share of injury concerns and it is known that at least Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku will miss the match, with Witsel probably playing through a niggling injury and Kompany a doubt for the match.
Regardless, Serbia will still be outmatched by the more eloquent attacking threat of the Belgians, but should come away with a draw as a result of their strong home support, set-piece threat, and defensive strength.
Players to Watch: Alecksander Kolarov, Zoran Tošić (Serbia); Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembélé (Belgium)