Georgia vs. North Macedonia – prediction, team news, lineups

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Willy Sagnol’s side currently sit at the summit with 10 points to their name, and one point would be enough to confirm their promotion to League B, with their opponents down in second and three points worse off.

Match preview

Georgia manager Willy Sagnol during the press conference on March 27, 2021© Reuters

While a World Cup berth was always expected to be out of Georgia’s reach, Willy Sagnol’s crop have kept the momentum going from their final two qualifying wins over Kosovo and Sweden and could stretch their unbeaten run to an impressive 10 games this week.

The Crusaders opened their new Nations League campaign with three consecutive wins before being held to a goalless draw by Bulgaria in their most recent battle, but their League B destiny is in their own hands before they travel to meet basement side Gibraltar on matchday six.

With 10 points from a possible 12, Georgia only need a draw to secure promotion to League B courtesy of the head-to-head points rule, and they will remain at the top even with defeat this week, assuming that North Macedonia cannot prevail by a four-goal margin or more.

A steadfast defender in his prime, former France international Sagnol will have been left delighted with his side’s rearguard efforts, keeping seven clean sheets in their last nine games in all competitions and conceding just three goals in that time.

That impressive defensive run also includes four consecutive shut-outs on home soil, although they have won just one of their last five Nations League games in front of their own fans, and North Macedonia will not give up the ghost easily.

North Macedonia's Stefan Ristovski celebrates with teammates after the match on March 24, 2022© Reuters

The visitors to Tbilisi began life in the Nations League down in the doldrums of League D, but a spot in League B for the next cycle remains a possibility for Blagoja Milevski‘s men, who will also round off their competitive action for the year in September.

Victory over European champions Italy in the World Cup playoffs will live long in the memory of the Lions, but attempting to get the better of Portugal at the final hurdle was a step too far, and a dream spot in Qatar ultimately passed them by.

Back-to-back wins over the hapless Gibraltar have helped North Macedonia stay alive in the battle to earn promotion, as they cruised past Los Llanis 4-0 last time out thanks to goals from Enis BardhiBojan MiovskiDarko Churlinov and Graeme Torrilla‘s own goal – all of which came in the first half.

After playing out two 1-1 draws in the 2020-21 Nations League, North Macedonia booked their historic place at Euro 2020 courtesy of a 1-0 win over Georgia in their playoff final, but Sagnol’s side ran out 3-0 victors when the sides butted heads back in June.

Team News

Georgia's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia celebrates scoring against Spain on March 28, 2021© Reuters

Georgia and Dinamo Tbilisi defender Jemal Tabidze has been forced to pull out of the squad for September’s fixtures due to injury, but Sagnol should otherwise be working with his strongest squad available.

Napoli starboy Khvicha Kvaratskhelia could be joined by Bordeaux loanee Zuriko Davitashvili – also just 21 years of age – in the final third, while Guram Kashia should captain the side from the back.

Should Kashia feature in both of September’s games, the 35-year-old would become just the third man to win 100 caps for the Georgian national team after Levan Kobiashvili and Slovan Bratislava teammate Jaba Kankava.

As for North Macedonia, captain Stefan Ristovski is among three withdrawals due to injury, as Churlinov and one-cap midfielder Valon Ethemi have also pulled out of the squad for September’s fixtures.

Erdal Rakip and former Arsenal goalkeeper Dejan Iliev are among those to miss out due to injury, but a recognisable team should still feature the likes of Ezgjan Alioski and Elif Elmas.

In line to win his 80th cap for the national team, striker Aleksandar Trajkovski – who was absent against Gibraltar – should lead the line as he aims to build on his 20-goal tally for the national team.

Georgia possible starting lineup:
Loria; Khocholava, Kvirkvelia, Kashia; Kakabadze, Kvekveskiri, Aburjania, Azarovi; Kvaratskhelia, Davitashvili; Mikautadze

North Macedonia possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; Todoroski, Musliu, Velkovski, Alioski; Elmas, Spirovski; Trajkovski, Bardhi, Ashkovski; Ristovski

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