Aleksandar Mitrovic: Scotland fully aware of Serbia's danger man
He may not be firing on all cylinders with his club, but Scotland know Aleksandar Mitrovic is a huge danger man when they face Serbia on Thursday.
The Fulham striker has only scored twice in seven matches this season for the Cottagers, but the 26-year-old is an assassin when he represents his country. He has scored 36 goals in 59 appearances – that seven more than the whole Scotland squad combined. So when Steve Clarke’s men face the Serbians in Belgrade in the Euro 2020 play-off final, they know exactly what they are dealing with.
"I was with him at Newcastle for a year,” recalled Scotland centre-half Grant Hanley, who is back in the squad due to renewed good form with Norwich. “His record speaks for itself. He's proved throughout his career that he has the quality to score goals wherever he plays. That's what happens when you play at this level, you come up against players of this quality. It's nothing new for the lads and I am sure homework will be done and we will be ready for it.
"Everybody knows what Mitro is like. He's aggressive and he's a handful. Whatever centre-half he comes up against normally find themselves in a battle.
“Thinking back he probably never played as much as he would have liked to and I don’t think that is through any fault of his own.
“I think he would have liked to but [Ayoze] Perez scored however many goals that year if you remember? But whenever Mitro was involved he scored goals and that is sort of his record wherever he played."
Stopping the supply lines
Manager Clarke is fully aware of Mitrovic’s threat. The Scots boss admits he wasn’t too surprised when Serbia ousted Norway in the semi-finals last month and will try to cut the supply line to Serbia’s talisman.
“Serbia is a quality team,” said Clarke. “People will say they were surprised to see them beat Norway, but I wasn't one of them.
“I felt the Serbs, the way they play, the Norway game would suit them. That's how it turned out. They were terrific on the night.
“They've got some key players, a really good squad. The boy Mitrovic as a striker – his goal record in international football is phenomenal.
“He's a great player in the 18-yard box and a handful outside too. He's scored a hell of a number of goals so we'll have to keep an eye on him and limit his supply.
“Those supply lines would be mainly through Tadic and if he's playing, he's a player we'd have to control.
“Whoever they pick in central midfield, they'll be very competent and good at their job.
“They have two good wing-backs and experience at the back in Kolarov who has almost 100 caps.
“So they're a top team. They didn't qualify out of their group but they had Portugal and Ukraine who are very strong.
“That's why they're in the play-off final against us and it'll be a tough game.”
If Mitrovic does score, it won’t because Scotland aren’t prepared for him. Snuff him out, though, and half the battle of Belgrade will be won.