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Friday 30 September 2016

Matic mans up for Serbia side

Chelsea’s Serbian star Nemanja Matic, pictured here in action against Watford, believes the upcoming qualifier against Ireland will be a battle in Belgrade.
Chelsea’s Serbian star Nemanja Matic, pictured here in action against Watford, believes the upcoming qualifier against Ireland will be a battle in Belgrade.

Chelsea star Nemanja Matic has promised to turn up on international duty next week for Serbia's World Cup qualifier against Ireland even though he's suspended for the game.

Meanwhile, Ireland boss Martin O'Neill is still assessing his options for the clash in Belgrade, particularly in defence, with in-form Brentford defender John Egan hoping to get the nod as O'Neill has a number of concerns.

O'Neill's counterpart Slavoljub Muslin named a 26-man squad last week for the qualifier in Belgrade on September 5th, but O'Neill and the FAI have yet to make public his panel for the game.

It's understood that the players' clubs have been informed of the provisional squad but O'Neill, who was on holidays until earlier last weekend, may wait and name a final 23-strong squad instead of his traditional 40-man squad.

Uncapped players like Matt Doherty, Joe Mason, John Egan and Christopher Forrester are all in the frame for the friendly against Oman on Wednesday week, Egan a contender for the defensive positions as Shane Duffy is suspended for the qualifier while John O'Shea and Seamus Coleman are major doubts.

O'Neill and the FAI are also trying to work out how to accommodate Robbie Keane, as the nation's all-time record goal scorer is due to announce his retirement from international football and is expected to get a send-off against Oman but then leave the squad as they head to Belgrade for that key qualifier.

O'Neill is still awaiting updates from Everton and Sunderland on the status of Coleman and O'Shea but Serbia have problems of their own, with Premier League stars Nemanja Matic and Aleksandar Kolarov suspended, Zoran Tosic a major injury doubt while Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrovic has yet to play for the Magpies this season, though he could feature for the Magpies this week.

Serbia are taking their preparations for the Ireland tie very seriously and, despite his suspension, Stamford Bridge man Matic has promised to show up.

"I spoke to the coach about it and, even though I cannot play, I want to be with the boys in the team," says Matic. "This is a new campaign and a fresh start for us and we want to do well, I want the atmosphere in the squad to be good.

"If we can get a good result against Ireland it would be great for our self-confidence, but this is just the first of many tough games on the road to Russia.

"It's a tough match, against a team who are well-organised, physically strong and dangerous on the counter-attack. "It won't be easy against Ireland but with the home crowd behind us I feel we have the ability to get a result."

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