Ljubinko Drulovic aims to boost job prospects
Ivanovic and Kolarov wary of facing familiar faces from Premier League
Serbia’s Aleksander Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic during training at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Bigger tests may lay in waiting for Serbia players Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksandar Kolarov at club level but, judging by yesterday’s pre-match press conference, their interim manager Ljubinko Drulovic sat between the pair and is out to make the most of tonight’s international friendly against the Republic of Ireland.
Drulovic has soared up the coaching ladder, in similar fashion to Brian Kerr’s ascent a decade ago, from leading Serbia to the Under-19 European Championship crown last summer into the top post in the country.
All of the noises emerging at Lansdowne Road from the coach, who as a Yugoslavia player faced Ireland in both of the Euro 2000 qualifiers, were that of a man eager to use Martin O’Neill’s side as fodder to enhance his long-term job prospects.
“My coaching career is going in the right direction,” asserted the 45-year-old former Porto player.
“The last World Cup qualifying campaign didn’t go well for us but I am here to help Serbia try to qualify for Euro 2016.”
Asked what he expects O’Neill’s new Ireland to supply in terms of tactics tonight, his sentiments were as if Giovanni Trapattoni hadn’t gone away.
“We can expect some danger from set-pieces,” he pointed out through the aid of a translator.
“From corner-kicks and free-kicks, Ireland will be strong because they have big, physical players.”
Strength seemed to be the attribute most on the minds of both Ivanovic and Kolarov when the Premier League duo were each offered to provide their thoughts on Ireland.
Chelsea defender Ivanovic particularly appreciates the brawn of Ireland striker Shane Long having been outmuscled by the then-West Bromwich Albion striker as he rose high to head home in September at Stamford Bridge.
Lot of respect
“I have a lot of respect for Ireland because all the players are playing are great clubs in the Premier League,” noted Serbia captain Ivanovic.
“From our side, we are facing great opponents in a great stadium. It all points to a good game.”
His vice-captain, Manchester City full-back Aleksandar Kolarov, has learned from his own experience of facing the Irish brigade on Premier League duty that a busy night could be in store.
“Every week in England, we face the Irish players. It is also difficult to play against those strong guys,” he said.
Despite their upcoming Uefa Champions League commitments, neither Kolarov or Ivanovic will be rested this evening. Another Chelsea player, midfielder Nemanja Matic, is also in line to start.
Another playmaker out to prove a point for the visitors tonight is midfielder Adem Ljajic. Recalled after two years off the international scene under previous boss Sinisa Mihajlovic, the recent Roma signing will be looked upon to provide their spark.