International friendly: Serbia v Spain Preview
Newly appointed coach Sinisa Mihajlovic will face world and European champions Spain on Saturday in his first match in charge of Serbia.
Serbia’s Football Federation appointed Mihajlovic on a two-year contract this week, replacing Vladimir Petrovic who resigned last year after failing to qualify for next month’s European Championship.
The former Bologna, Catania and Fiorentina boss, who said he would quit if the Balkan nation did not reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, named a 31-man squad for upcoming friendlies against Spain, Sweden and France.
The squad includes four debutants, Branimir Aleksic (FK Spartak Subotica), Nikola Maksimovic (Red Star Belgrade), Filip Mladenovic (Red Star Belgrade) and Srdjan Miljailovic (Red Star Belgrade).
The quartet are locally based, while Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic lead the list of players plying their trade outside of Serbia.
There was no room for Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Milos Krasic, Nenad Milijas, Milan Jovanovic, Miralem Sulejmani and Nikola Zigic as Mihajlovic opts to experiment with his squad ahead of Serbia’s first World Cup qualifier in September.
Serbia have an average age of 23, with 19 players under the age of 25 selected and will look to the likes of Zoran Tosic and Aleksandar Kolarov for experience.
Mihajlovic will be eager for Serbia to end their barren run in front of goal. The 32nd-ranked country has scored just twice in five previous outings.
Spain will use the friendly at the AFG Arena in St Gallen, Switzerland, as an opportunity for a number of new faces to stake a claim for a spot in the European Championship squad.
Vincente del Bosque has added six new faces to a 21-man squad that are also set to face South Korea in another pre-Euro friendly later this month.
David de Gea (Manchester United), Juanfran and Adrian Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Javi Garcia (Benfica), Benat Etxebarria (Real Betis) and Isco (Malaga) are all in line to receive their first cap.
With Xavi, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez just some of the names absent, the squad does not feature players from Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, or Champions League winners Chelsea.
The squad does include five players from Spanish champions Real Madrid – Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol and Xavi Alonso.
Spain have found the back of the net on 21 occasions in their previous six international matches.