FYR Macedonia could be out of contention for a place at the tournament finals if they lose to Slovakia and that should be good enough motivation for the hosts to give their best. Meanwhile, Repre have been thoroughly impressive so far and they will fancy their chances of winning at Nacionalna Arena Filip II in Skopje.
Poor showings against top sides
FYR Macedonia have shown some promise over the last couple of years, but it appears they will not be playing at a major tournament any time soon. Bosko Djurovski took over from Ceda Janevski following some disappointing showings in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, but his side have shown no improvement since. The Red Lions were somewhat fortunate to beat Luxembourg at home, while away defeats to Spain and Ukraine proved they still lack the quality to match Europe’s top sides. And with in-form Slovakia arriving in Skopje, the hosts have little to hope for, especially with some important players missing. FYR Macedonia clearly lack the needed quality to match the best teams in the group and this is definitely not the right time for them to be facing red-hot Slovakia. Playing at home and in desperate need of three points, the hosts will be forced to adopt a positive approach, which is likely to make the job even easier for the opposition. Having lost to Croatia, Belgium and Scotland at home in the previous qualifying campaign, the Red Lions are unlikely to fare any better this time out.
Key midfielder Agim Ibraimi is out with pneumonia, while Aleksandar Trajkovski is doubtful after suffering an injury in training.
Brilliant start for the Slovaks
Slovakia have probably been the surprise package of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, having recorded three impressive wins to climb to the top of Group C standings. These were by no means easy victories as Repre saw off mighty Spain at home, while also enjoying triumphs away at Ukraine and Belarus. It is this consistency that is enough to suggest Jan Kozak’s side are finally ready to qualify for a major tournament and it is now all about keeping their performances at a high level. Even if they scored six goals in three matches, Slovakia continue to rely on rock-solid defence, with the team first making sure their own goal is well protected before launching swift counterattacks to break the opposition. It is this style of play that should prove just perfect against FYR Macedonia seeing as how the hosts have no choice but to attack, meaning their shaky back line will be exposed on numerous occasions. With key player Marek Hamsik fully fit and in a very good form and other starters also playing well at the moment, Slovakia have got to be considered hot favourites to win in Skopje.
Marek Hamsik and Robert Mak are both in contention, with only back-up player Norbert Gyomber missing out through injury.
FYR Macedonia have been pretty disappointing of late and with two key players missing they clearly face an uphill task against in-form Slovakia. Having already defeated Ukraine, Spain and Belarus, surely Marek Hamsik and co. will be able to beat the Red Lions as well.
Top pick: Away win 2.00 (1/1) @ Betfred
Alternative pick 1: Slovakia/Slovakia 3.25 (9/4) @ William Hill
Alternative pick 2: Slovakia to win to nil 3.00 (2/1) @ SkyBet