New Serbia boss Stojkovic


New Serbia boss Stojkovic "expects" to beat Republic of Ireland

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Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic has added some spice to the upcoming World Cup qualifiers by saying he "expects" to beat the Republic of Ireland. 

Stephen Kenny's side visit Belgrade in their opening Group A game on March 24.

Former Yugoslavia legend Stojkovic succeeded the sacked Ljubisa Tumbakovic just a fortnight ago.

The 56-year old hasn't been shy about putting his stamp on the squad. Experienced players like Aleksandar Kolarov and Luka Milivojevic have been jettisoned ahead of the games with Ireland, Portugal and Azerbaijan this month.

Speaking to the media for the first time ahead of next week's games, Stojkovic said of Ireland, "Of course, as a serious team and professional staff, we have analysed all opponents, the emphasis is on the Republic of Ireland.

"They are a quality team, and we have to be focused on our game and of course, I expect to win."

The former Red Star Belgrade and Marseille playmaker suggested that others sides in the group will provide a sterner test than Kenny's charges.

"The schedule of matches is not important because you have to play with all opponents," Stojkovic said, "And you have to be ready.

"That is the most important thing. There are no easy matches, no calculations, we have to play with everyone. 

"Who's guaranteeing points against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg? Luxembourg will be the hardest match remember that!"

Stojkovic was asked about the form of Aleksander Mitrovic, who has been confined to the Fulham substitutes' bench in recent weeks.

"Mitrovic has to regain his self-confidence," the Serbia boss said, "He hasn't played much in the last few months, but I included him in the squad.

"People have asked me 'Why has he called him up, when he is not playing... He's low on confidence, he missed a penalty against Scotland', but I believe in him.

Mitrovic and Luka Jovic are almost certain to start up-front against Ireland, and could be joined in an attacking trio by Dusan Vlahovic.

The 21-year old has scored 12-goals in 29 matches for Fiorentina so far this season, including a hat-trick against Benevento last weekend.

Stojkovic says he wants to see fast, attacking football from his Serbia side which is why there was no room for Crystal Palace skipper Milivojevic.

"I like more creativity in the middle of the field," the manager said, "I love creation, I love ‘art’, art in the middle. 

"Milivojevic is not that type of player. It's not that he doesn't have quality, or isn't professional - far from it.

He certainly wouldn’t play at Crystal Palace if that were the case - He's even a captain there.

"But I see the national team in a different formation."

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Aleksa Aleksandar Mitrovic Dragan Stojkovic Ireland Luka Milivojevic Qatar 2022 Republic Of Ireland Stephen Kenny World Cup Qualifiers

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