Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Nations League clash between North Macedonia and Gibraltar, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
After a crushing home defeat in midweek, North Macedonia will seek to close the gap to top spot in their UEFA Nations League group, as they host outsiders Gibraltar on Sunday.
The teams meet for the second time in the space of a week, this time at Skopje’s Tose Proeski National Arena, with three more League C Group 4 points at stake.
Having accumulated four points from their first two matches of a packed summer schedule in the Nations League, it was with some confidence that North Macedonia welcomed Group 4 leaders Georgia to Skopje on Thursday.
However, following a goalless first half, conceding in the 52nd minute triggered something of a collapse by Blagoja Milevski‘s side, who ultimately slipped to a surprising 3-0 home defeat; falling five points behind their opponents in the race to reach League B.
Expectations have risen since the Balkan nation made it to Euro 2020 and enjoyed an infamous World Cup qualifying victory in Germany, and earlier this year they eliminated European champions Italy in the playoffs for Qatar 2022.
Despite defeat to Portugal in the subsequent decider, hopes were high as the Lions returned to competitive action last week, but results have been mixed during their trio of Nations League matches this month.
An opening 1-1 draw in Bulgaria came before a 2-0 win over this Sunday’s opponents in Gibraltar, but their setback in midweek now leaves Milevski’s men with plenty to prove at home to modest opposition.
Heavily beaten by the pace-setting Georgians in their opening League C Group 4 contest, Gibraltar may have been slow to adapt to life in Europe’s third tier this summer, but showed significant signs of progress by holding Bulgaria to a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
Promoted to the Nations League’s third tier by going unbeaten against fellow minnows Liechtenstein and San Marino during the 2020-21 edition, Los Llanis recorded two victories and two draws in the process, but have inevitably found the going tougher in the current campaign.
Their first two games concluded with the minnows both pointless and goalless following their loss at home to North Macedonia last weekend, but taking a point off the Bulgarians keeps them in touch with third spot – a placing which would ultimately keep them afloat at League C level.
The side overseen by Uruguayan coach Julio Cesar Ribas now take on one of their toughest challenges of the 2022-23 competition, and as one of only two European nations to lose all 10 of their World Cup qualifiers on the road to this winter’s finals, they will travel east in hope more than expectation.
North Macedonia Nations League form:
North Macedonia form (all competitions):
Gibraltar Nations League form:
Gibraltar form (all competitions):
Considering such a disappointing result against Georgia on Thursday, Blagoja Milevski could make several changes to his North Macedonia team, particularly after three matches in quick succession.
While Malmo’s Erdal Rakip and captain Stefan Ristovski have both been forced to withdraw due to injury, the hosts still have an experienced squad to call upon, with former Leeds United man Ezgjan Alioski the current incumbent at left-back, while Aleksandar Trajkovski (79 caps, 20 goals) is expected to feature up front.
Napoli’s talented playmaker Eljif Elmas has already accrued 41 international caps at the age of 22, and should start in midfield.
Meanwhile, Gibraltar could revert to a cautious 5-4-1 formation on Sunday, with captain Roy Chipolina poised to start alongside Bernardo Lopes and Scott Wiseman in central defence.
Up front, midweek goascorer Liam Walker – who is now the nation’s leading marksman with four international goals – will compete with Stourbridge forward Reece Styche to lead the visitors’ line, but 40-year-old Lee Casciaro may retain his place instead.
North Macedonia possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Todoroski, Ristevski, Musliu, Alioski; Churlinov, Bardhi, Nikolov, Elmas; Trajkovski, Ristovski
Gibraltar possible starting lineup:
Coleing; Jolley, Chipolina, Wiseman, Lopes, Britto; Walker, Ronan, Annesley, Pons; Casciaro
We say: North Macedonia 3-0 Gibraltar
Seeking to close out an underwhelming quartet of June fixtures with a resounding victory, North Macedonia should certainly secure maximum points at home in Skopje, as their opponents tend to struggle when away from the Rock.
With a sizeable advantage in terms of top-level experience and technical ability, the hosts should already have victory wrapped up before easing off in the final stages.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.