CARD KING Gavin Murphy (@GamePlanGavin) analyses Saturday evening’s World Cup qualifier from Cardiff.
Wales v Serbia | Saturday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
World Cup qualification continues on Saturday night as European Championship semi-finalists Wales host Serbia in a crucial Group D fixture.
The Serbs travel to Cardiff sitting on top of the group and the hosts will be feeling the pressure a bit more after a shocking performance last time out whilst drawing 1-1 against Georgia.
With Austria hosting the Republic of Ireland in the other significant group game, this is a pivotal weekend for the perceived four qualification contenders.
Wales’ Serbian struggles
As a Welshman, I’m all too aware that the visitors have a good recent record against the Dragons.
In 2012, they thrashed us 6-1 in Novi Sad. It was the fourth straight loss for Chris Coleman after the sad death of Gary Speed and our heaviest defeat in 16 years. They also won the return leg 3-0 in September 2013.
However, when you consider that substitute Gareth Bale came on to replace Andy King that day, it tells you how much things have improved with Wales since those head-to-head meetings.
Based on the opening three group matches, this is a mismatch in terms of discipline – Serbia rank joint fifth (out of 54 teams) in yellow cards received and 16th in total cards. Meanwhile, Wales have collected just one yellow and are joint-last with the likes of Germany for card accumulation.
Serbia have collected total card figures of 2-3-3 so far at an average of 2.67 cards per-game.
Spanish official Alberto Undiano Mallenco has been appointed for this battle. By Spanish standards he is fairly lenient averaging 4.50 cards per-game in 2016/17 across all competitions.
He has officiated Wales once, against Bosnia in 2015 and showed them just one card. The 43 year-old from Pamplona has also covered Serbia on one occasion, showing them four yellows in the 2010 World Cup group game against Germany.
The Serbians to collect the most cards of the two teams does appeal but given what is at stake, I’m fearful of the ‘tie’ coming into play and because I don’t think Wales are as disciplined as the stats indicate.
Instead, I’m recommending backing Over 20 Bookings Points for Serbia at 6/5 with Paddy Power. SkyBet offer 5/4 on 30+ Bookings Points but I prefer the Paddy Power market as this would pay out on a single straight red card whereas SkyBet wouldn’t.
That may be being excessively pedantic but you never know… Either way, Serbia have the group lead to protect at the Cardiff City Stadium and I can see them collecting a few cards during the 90 minutes.
Wales v Serbia – Serbia to collect Over 20 Bookings Points (6/5 Paddy Power)