By 90Min
June 21, 2018

After positive starts for both Serbia and Switzerland in their opening games of Group E, the two are set to clash this Friday at the Kaliningrad Stadium, where a win for either side will put them in a strong position to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup.

A stunning Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick gave Serbia a 1-0 win against Costa Rica to give themselves the best possible start in Russia, while Switzerland battled back from a goal down to earn a vital point against Brazil thanks to Steven Zuber's second half header.

With a final group game against the five-time World Cup winners to come, Serbia will want to have secured their place in the last 16 by then, although Switzerland will offer a stern test, who themselves have aspirations of a qualifying from the group.


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Kolarov's free-kick against Costa Rica helped Serbia secure their third win in their previous six games, and their second victory in succession. Defeats to Chile and Morocco have also come during that time, while also recording a 1-1 draw against South Korea.

Serbia's win against their Group E opponents was their first win at the World Cup since 2010, having failed to qualify for Brazil in 2014. The result on that occasion was also a 1-0 win, this time against Germany, although it would be the only points they would earn in South Africa, eventually finishing bottom of Group D. 

For the Swiss, the draw in their opening game extends their unbeaten run to seven games, four of which have ended in victories for the Rossocrociati. 

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The last time Switzerland tasted defeat was against Portugal during the qualifying stages for the World Cup in October. It would be the only loss they'd suffer in qualifying, but had to settle for second place due to goal difference, before overcoming Northern Ireland in a two-legged playoff to confirm their place in Russia.


Previous World Cup Encounter


While Switzerland haven't encountered Serbia in their current guise at the World Cup, the Swiss have faced a Serbia of sorts when they competed under the now defunct SFR Yugolsavia in 1950. 

The opening game for the pair in Group 1 at that year's World Cup in Brazil, it would be a game to forget for Switzerland, as goals for Rajko Mitic, Kosta Tomasevic and Tihomir Ognjanov gave Yugoslavia a 3-0 win in Belo Horizonte, although it would be an early exit from the competition as both finished behind the hosts in the group. 


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Mladen Krstajic looks to have everyone available ahead of the game on Friday, although he may stick with the same Serbia side that started the win against Costa Rica.

For Vladimir Petkovic, he too appears to have all of his 23 man squad available following the game against Brazil, with Granit Xhaka playing the full 90 minutes after his World Cup was in doubt with a knee injury prior to the tournament. 


Predicted Line-Ups


Serbia (4-2-3-1): Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov, Milivojevic, Matic; Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, Ljajic, Mitrovic


Switzerland (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez, Behrami, Xhaka, Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber, Seferovic


Prediction

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As both sides made strong starts to their respected Group E campaigns, Serbia and Switzerland will be desperate to keep the feel-good factor going with another positive result on Friday, although they may have to settle for a point come full time. 

Serbia will perhaps take more chances to win the game considering their final group game is against pre-tournament favourites Brazil, but as the Swiss proved in their game against the Selecao, they are awkward customers with great qualities of their own, which is why a draw in Kaliningrad appears to be the most likely result.

Prediction: Serbia 1-1 Switzerland

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