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Hostile to docile: Clark says...

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Hostile to docile: Clark says empty Marakana an advantage for Ireland


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Ciaran Clark says the Republic of Ireland will have an advantage from their opening World Cup qualifier being played behind closed doors. 

Belgrade's raucous Red Star Stadium - often referred to as the Marakana - holds 53,000 fans, but will be eerily quiet when Ireland face Serbia on Wednesday night.

Clark was a late substitute for Shane Long during a 2-2 draw between the sides at the same venue in 2016, and believes the dulled atmosphere can help Stephen Kenny's side.

"At the time, I remember it was pretty hostile," the Newcastle defender told a Monday afternoon press conference, "They brought a massive crowd there.

"It probably is an advantage for us at the minute going into the games, at the minute, playing with no crowd.

"It could be different next season, if we were to play them away then, it could have been a full stadium there so to play these [Serbia] at this time, it's probably a good thing.

"Obviously it's a slight advantage, but nevertheless it's going to be a really tough game.

"It doesn't change what goes on on the pitch, it's going to be a tough game against a real top-quality side.

"Obviously it might be a slight advantage in the fact that there's no fans now, and there possibly could have been if we played them at a different point of the campaign.

"We're all looking forward to it, and know how tough it's going to be."

Clark has been a regular in a faltering Newcastle side this season, with 18 Premier League games to his name. But with the club sliding towards the bottom three, the 31-year old admits the international break has come at the right time with the Magpies now able to patch together some of their walking wounded.

His time at St. James's Park means Clark is acutely aware of the abilities of Aleksandar Mitrovic. The pair spent three seasons together at Newcastle.

New Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic has intimated he will likely start Mitrovic alongside Luka Jovic on Wednesday night.

"He's shown how good he is," Clark said, "And what a threat he can be.

"Like I said, we need to be on top of that, and on top of the other players they have because they're a real quality side.

"It's going to be a tough game, but if we stay focused and give it everything we'll have a chance."

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Aleksandar Mitrovic Belgrade Ciaran Clark Ireland Qatar 2022 Republic Of Ireland Serbia World Cup Qualifiers

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