MX23RW : Tuesday, July 27 15:09:31| >> :600:3008081:3008081:
Mar 30, 2021 at 5pm UK at Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu
Mahmudov (59' pen.)
Xalilzada (88')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Mitrovic (16', 81')
Spajic (45+1'), Gudelj (76')

Preview: Azerbaijan vs. Serbia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's World Cup Qualifying clash between Azerbaijan and Serbia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Azerbaijan will be out to recover from their painful opening-day defeat to Portugal when they welcome Serbia to Baku for their second game of World Cup Qualifying in Group A.

The visitors also locked horns with the European and Nations League champions recently, as goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Filip Kostic rescued a 2-2 draw for Dragan Stojkovic's side at the weekend.

Match preview

Azerbaijan coach Gianni De Biasi during the match on March 27, 2021© Reuters

Losing to Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal is nothing to be ashamed of, but Azerbaijan were heartbroken to suffer defeat in the fashion that they did to the European champions, as an own goal was all that could separate the two sides on the night in Turin.

Solid throughout the game, Azerbaijan number one Shahrudin Mahammadaliyev attempted to punch a cross clear in the 37th minute, only to see the ball cannon off captain Maksim Medvedev and trickle into the back of the net, and there were no more goals to be had on the night as Giovanni De Biasi's agonising wait for a win went on.

Azerbaijan were rightly applauded for their efforts to quell Portugal's rampageous attackers, but that result saw them kick off the road to Qatar in disappointing fashion, and they have since suffered another defeat to the 2022 hosts in a friendly on Saturday.

While the four other teams in Group A did battle among themselves, Azerbaijan succumbed to a brace from Qatar's Hassan Al Heidos after Ramil Sheydaev drew first blood from 12 yards, as that result stretched their winless run to seven matches across all competitions, and they have also prevailed just twice in their last 20 games.

Down in fourth after one game, supporters will not be placing bets on Azerbaijan securing a maiden appearance at the World Cup finals anytime soon, especially as a Serbia side who have found their shooting boots seek to cement their position at the top this week.

Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on March 27, 2021© Reuters

Having quickly fallen behind to two well-taken headers from Diogo Jota, Serbia looked down and out before the half-time whistle blew against Portugal on Saturday, but Mitrovic popped up with his third goal in two matches to set up a nervy final 45 minutes for Fernando Santos's men on matchday two.

The Serbians' pressure eventually paid off as Filip Kostic finished off a sweeping counter-attack by tapping home on the hour mark, and after surviving a red card and Cristiano Ronaldo's goalbound effort being cleared off the line - although the Juventus man was convinced that the goal should have been awarded - Serbia ultimately claimed a share of the spoils.

Dragan Stojkovic's side remain at the top of the pile courtesy of goals scored - with their thrilling 3-2 victory over the Republic of Ireland doing wonders for them in that department - although four goals conceded in two matches is certainly a point of concern for the visiting manager as the top-two battle hots up.

Even though Serbia have managed to win just three of their last 13 matches across all competitions, Saturday's pulsating draw with Portugal saw them extend their unbeaten run to six games, and they will undoubtedly be desperate to avoid a first defeat of 2021 in Baku, where they ought to end a run of four consecutive draws away from home.

Azerbaijan and Serbia have met three times down the years, and this week's visitors have come out on top each time - scoring 11 goals and conceding just two - and a brace from former Chelsea man Branislav Ivanovic helped Serbia to a 4-1 win over their opponents in a 2015 friendly.

Azerbaijan World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L

Azerbaijan form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L

Serbia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W
  • D

Serbia form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D

Team News

Azerbaijan's Ramil Sheydaev celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on March 27, 2021© Reuters

Azerbaijan made a raft of changes for their weekend friendly, as expected, so the duo of Mahammadaliyev and Medvedev are set to return despite their unfortunate involvements in the decisive goal against Portugal.

Sheydaev will hope to earn another start following his goal against Qatar, but Ali Ghorbani should return to the squad this week and is set to do battle with his teammate for the chance to spearhead the Azerbaijan attack.

Meanwhile, the visitors will be forced into a change in defence after Nikola Milenkovic was given his marching orders against Portugal, and Stojkovic has also seen Milos Veljkovic return to Werder Bremen following adductor problems.

Feyenoord's Uros Spajic is therefore the most likely candidate to deputise at the back, and Stojkovic could elect to shuffle the pack further up the pitch after his half-time substitutions paid dividends on Saturday.

Nemanja Maksimovic and Nemanja Radonjic - the latter of whom provided the assist for Kostic's equaliser - were both introduced for the second 45 and could earn starts here, while Dusan Vlahovic's place up top is also under threat from Luka Jovic.

Azerbaijan possible starting lineup:
Mahammadaliyev; Medvedev, B. Huseynov, Badalov, Kryvotsiuk; A. Huseynov, Mustafayev, Makhmudov, Salahly; Emreli, Sheydaev

Serbia possible starting lineup:
Dmitrovic; Pavlovic, Spajic, Mitrovic; Lazovic, Maksimovic, Milinkovic-Savic, Radonjic; Tadic; Mitrovic, Jovic

SM words green background

We say: Azerbaijan 0-2 Serbia

The signs are overwhelmingly positive for Serbia after two matches, and Stojkovic has an abundance of options from the bench as he aims to keep his players firing on all cylinders for their final game of the month. Azerbaijan deserve praise for their stellar showing against Portugal, but the confidence in the visitors' camp is sky high, and we are backing Serbia to remain at the top of the pile with a convincing win in Baku.

Top tip

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Tuesday's key events

· Team GB trio Vicky Holland, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jess Learmonth all have realistic medal hopes in the women's event (10.30pm-1am)

· After an impressive opening day, Great Britain play their final group game against a Fiji side level with them at the top of the pool, but also yet to hit their brilliant best (1.30am)

· After disappointment for friend and housemate Jade Jones, Bianca Walkden will go for gold in the women's +67kg category (2am-2.30pm)
· Mahama Cho is another medal contender for Team GB in the men's +80kg class (2am-2.30pm)

· Team GB's Duncan Scott has the chance to claim his first individual Olympic medal in the men's 200m freestyle final. Teammate Tom Dean is also involved. (2.43am)
· Kathleen Dawson is the Team GB representative in the women's 100m backstroke final (2.51am)

· Eden Cheng and Lois Toulson will look to emulate Tom Daley and Matty Lee's success in the women's 10m synchro final (7am-8am)

· Three-time Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin is part of a Team GB team going for gold in the dressage team Grand Prix final (9.30am)

· Superstar Simone Biles leads the United States side in the women's team final (11.45am-2.10pm)

· Team GB's women's team play their final group game, taking on Canada with qualification for the knockout rounds already secured (12pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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