Mark Temnycky –
Ukraine vs Serbia – Friday, June 7, 19:45 GMT/20:45 CEST – Arena Lviv, Lviv, Ukraine
Following an entertaining series of matches in March, the Ukrainian men’s national team will host Serbia on Matchday 3 in Euro 2020 Qualification Group B.
Ukraine fared well at the start of their Euro 2020 qualification campaign. The Zbirna collected four points from a possible six on the road against Portugal and Luxembourg. Given it is predicted Portugal will win the group, the Ukrainians will have to take all the points they can get to advance directly to the European finals next summer.
After their opening two matches, which involved a complaint to UEFA about the possibility of fielding an ineligible player, Ukraine unexpectedly find themselves at the top of Group B. They still have six more matches to play, but should they defeat Serbia on Friday they will take a commanding lead in Group B.
With the return of Andriy Yarmolenko from injury, and with the introduction of some younger and more athletic players, Ukraine find themselves in a strong position ahead of Friday’s match.
Meanwhile, Serbia have only played one match in Group B. Thus they have a game in hand. Like Ukraine, the Orlovi unexpectedly stole a point on the road against Portugal, and it will likely be a battle between the Zbirnaand the Orlovion who will finish second in the group. While both sides have the luxury of qualifying for the tournament via the second round playoffs as a backup option, both sides will want to avoid playing additional matches and will hope to qualify for the European competition directly.
The Serbs were unfortunate not to advance out of the group stage at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Thus they will look to their European qualification campaign as a way to amend this performance. With the likes of Aleksandar Mitrović and Luka Jović in front of goal, the Orlovi have a variety of talented outfield players capable of scoring goals.
Overall, this match is the first to two for the battle of second place in Group B. The return leg will be played in Serbia in November on the final day of the qualification campaign. Thus, depending on what transpires between now and November, these two teams could be in for an interesting ride.
Ukraine vs Serbia – Players to Watch:
Oleksandr Zinchenko #17 – Ukraine (Manchester City)
Originally used as a midfielder, Oleksandr Zinchenko’s versatility allowed him to play as an emergency left-back at Manchester City. His determination and ability to adapt to new positions led him to have two successful seasons at one of the world’s top clubs. Given his success in an unnatural position, it is possible Ukrainian manager Andriy Shevchenko will also adopt this strategy and slot Zinchenko into a full back position.
Dušan Tadić #10 – Serbia (Ajax)
Dušan Tadić had quite the season with Ajax as they unexpectedly found themselves in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Although his side would bow out to Tottenham Hotspur, the midfielder played a crucial role in his team’s performance throughout the campaign. Moreover, Tadić played an instrumental part in helping Ajax win the 2018/19 Eredivisie, thus ending the club’s five-year drought. Given this domestic success, the midfielder will hope to translate this success on the pitch for his national team.
Ukraine vs Serbia – Match Statistics:
- Ukraine and Serbia have faced each other on three occasions, albeit in international friendlies. The Ukrainians won all three matches by an aggregate score of 5-0.
- Andriy Yarmolenko was recalled to the Ukrainian national team after recovering from his Achilles injury. Denys Boyko and Júnior Moraes are injured and withdrew from the national team.
- Serbian veterans Branislav Ivanović, Matija Nastasić and Nemanja Matić were not recalled.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Ukraine vs Serbia – 1-1
Pyatov – Butko, Burda, Matviyenko, Zinchenko – Stepanenko, Malinovskiy – Konoplyanka, Marlos, Tsygankov – Yaremchuk
Manager: Andriy Shevchenko
Dmitrović – Rukavina, Milenković, Spajić, Mladenović – Gaćinović, Maksimović – Lazović, Tadić, Ljajić – Mitrović
Manager: Mladen Krstajić
Mark Temnycky reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTem33