Croats did their part of the job last time on the road to Cyprus when they didn’t let any surprises occur and took an expected 0:3 victory.
The quality gap was obvious from the start, as the guests were in complete control over the situation on the field, taking a lead in the late phase of the first part, and confirmed their victory with another two scored in the second.
They are currently at the leading spot in the group, sharing the same amount of points as second-placed Russia, so this one comes as a must-win for them.
The Croats will miss goalkeeper Kalinic (19/0, Hajduk), defenders Lovren (69/4, Zenit), Juranovic (13/0, Celtic), Vrsaljko (51/0, Atletico Madrid), midfielder Badelj (55/2, Genoa) and offfensive players Colak (3/0, Malmo), Budimir (8/1, Osasuna) and Rebic (42/3, Milan) compared to previous call-ups. Forward Orsic (13/1, Dinamo Zagreb) is now injured too, while suspended is midfielder Kovacic (75/3, Chelsea).
Slovakia appeared well in their last away fixture against Russia, but sometimes that simply isn’t enough, as they lost the match with a narrow 1:0 result.
They can blame misfortune, as Skriniar scored his own goal in the 24th minute, and even though they were visibly more aggressive side in the continuation, lack of creativity at the finishing prevented them from taking at least a point, which they deserved in my opinion.
Slovakia is at the 4th spot in the standings and will probably look at Qatar 2022 from a distance.
The guests miss goalkeeper Dubravka (29/0, Newcastle), defenders Gyomber (28/0, Salernitana), Mazan (11/0, AEL LImassol), Stetina (4/1, Sparta), Vavro (12/1, Lazio), midfielders Mak (71/14, Ferencvaros), Sabo (18/0, Rizespor), Weiss (74/7, Slovan), Gregus (36/4, Minnesota), and forward Mraz (4/1, Slovan) compared to previous matches. Midfielder Lobotka (32/3, Napoli) is freshly injured as well.
Way higher motive and bigger quality
Vice-champions of the world are in a good position to grab a direct promotion to the World Cup, and with a victory here, they will be one step closer to reaching their goal.
Croatia is looking good, currently enjoying a three-match positive run, and with the right approach, their victory with at least one goal margin difference shouldn’t be that hard to achieve.