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Serbia in focus ahead of their clash with the Republic of Ireland

Martin O'Neill will send his Republic of Ireland side into battle with Serbia on Tuesday night knowing defeat could blow a major hole in their bid to qualify for the World Cup finals in Russia next summer.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the Group D leaders and the threat they pose to Ireland's hopes.

FORM

Serbia's recent results have been impressive with only Ireland and Wales having denied them victory during the World Cup qualifying campaign to date, O'Neill's team in Belgrade in the opening round of fixtures and the Welsh both home and away. However, they have had to show resilience to ease themselves clear at the top of the group with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring late equalisers in both games against Chris Coleman's side. Mitrovic was also on target as Serbia came from behind to win 3-1 in Georgia in March.

COACH

Slavoljub Muslin is a much-travelled coach for whom qualification for the World Cup finals would extend his reign. A much-decorated former Red Star Belgrade defender, he ended his playing days in France, where he launched his coaching career working with the likes of David Ginola and Zinedine Zidane. Now 64, he has guided Serbia to the top of Group D with an unbeaten run of four wins and three draws.

TACTICS

Muslin has favoured a three-man defence with wing-backs Aleksandar Kolarov and Mijat Gacinovic providing the width. Nemanja Matic and Nemanja Gudelj are generally asked to sit in front of the back four with Mitrovic heading a front three along with Dusan Tadic and Filip Kostic.

PLAYERS

The Serbia squad is littered with familiar names, with Zenit St Petersburg's former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic wearing the captain's armband, Roma's former Manchester City man Kolarov adding his pace and power down the left and Manchester United new boy Matic controlling things in the middle of the park. Ten of their 16 goals in the campaign to date have been scored by Mitrovic and Tadic, with the Newcastle man leading the way on six, two ahead of his Southampton counterpart, whose haul of four includes two penalties.

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