Scotland - Serbia Preview: Tartan Army looking for a strong start on the road to Brazil
Craig Levein will be looking for a win in a tricky looking encounter at Hampden Park as his side begin their campaign to reach a first World Cup since 1998
By Rhys Turrell
Hutton, Berra, Caldwell, Dixon
Maloney, Morrison, Webster, Adam, Snodgrass,
Ivanovic, Subotic, Nastasic, Kolorov
Mijailovic, Ninkovic, Petrovic, Matic, Tosic,
Scotland manager Craig Levein has been hit by several injury problems in the build-up to their opening group match against Serbia at Hampden Park.
Phil Bardsley and Steven Whittaker (both ankle) were already unavailable after knocks ruled them out of the start of the Premier League season. Scott Brown (hip) and Darren Fletcher (bowel) were not considered for selection.
Southampton defender Danny Fox (groin) and Norwich defender Russell Martin (ankle) are also both out while Charlie Mulgrew is a late drop out (Achilles). They have been replaced in the squad by Huddersfield Town's Paul Dixon, MK Dons defender Gary MacKenzie and Bristol City's Richard Foster, with Dixon likely to start. Rangers defender Lee Wallace may have been called into the squad ahead of Dixon however he is unavailable (hamstring).
The Tartan Army will also been sweating over the fitness of goalkeeper Allan McGregor (groin) who should be fit to play.
Central defender Christophe Berra has joined up with squad late following the birth of his daughter, and is in line for a start alongside Gary Caldwell.
One man who is not available is £12 million Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher who has withdrawn himself from selection for Scotland.
Serbia manager Sinisa Mihajlovic is confident ahead of his side's trip to Scotland, insisting that his side boast greater technical skill than their opponents, but that the vibrant Hampden Park atmosphere may affect his side's performance.
The Serbs will be without arguably their best known player, Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic, after his retirement from international duty last year.
Adem Ljajic, who once was on the books at Old Trafford has not been selected after not singing the national anthem in a previous game.
Another player based in Manchester, Matija Nastasic, who signed for Premier League Manchester City on transfer deadline day is in the squad however, as is club team-mate Aleksander Kolorov.
The side will be captained by Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Scotland boss Craig Levein has named just three players in his 23-man squad who are based in the country. There are two from Celtic and one from Hearts but none from fallen giants Rangers.
The Tartan Army have never progressed from the group stages at a World Cup finals, and last reached the tournament in France 1998.
Kenny Miller (pictured) is the top scorer in Levein's squad - he has 16 goals for his country. The Vancouver Whitecaps forward also has the most appearances out of the 23-man set-up with 60.
Serbia manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will lead the side for the first time in a competitive match in the clash at Hampden Park. The former Fiorentina boss succeeded Radovan Curcic earlier in 2012.
Representation from Serbian clubs comes from the country's two most dominant sides. Partizan Belgrade have four players in the squad, whilst city rivals Red Star have three.
The 2010 World Cup was the first competition that Serbia competed in as a fully independent nation. They previously played at the 2006 tournament with Montenegro and before that as part of Yugoslavia, where they achieved two fourth placed finishes in World Cup finals (1960 and 1968).
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Top 3 Predictions
Scotland 1-0 Serbia
- 12 %
Scotland 1-2 Serbia
- 11.69 %
Scotland 1-1 Serbia
- 11.08 %
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||26 Mar 2013||Serbia 2 - Scotland 0|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||8 Sep 2012||Scotland 0 - Serbia 0|
|5 Mar 2014||Poland 0 - Scotland 1||FR|
|19 Nov 2013||Norway 0 - Scotland 1||FR|
|15 Nov 2013||Scotland 0 - USA 0||FR|
|15 Oct 2013||Scotland 2 - Croatia 0||WCQE|
|10 Sep 2013||Macedonia FYR 1 - Scotland 2||WCQE|
His trickery and skill on the ball could be what Scotland need to break down an impressive looking Serbian backline, and he is also a threat from set-pieces.
The lively left-winger has pace and trickery and with 42 caps and seven goals to his name on the international stage is a proven player at this level and will be looked upon to provide a major attacking threat for the visitors.
The attacking options on the bench for Scotland such as the clinical Jordan Rhodes or sppedy Matt Phillips may be a factor in the latter stages, however Levein has a reputation for not throwing caution to the wind and may well take a draw from what on paper looks to be one of Scotland’s toughest home assignments of the group.