Croatia‘s hopes of automatically qualifying for the 2022 World Cup will go down to the wire this week, starting with Thursday’s trip to Malta.
The 2018 World Cup runners-up are currently second to Russia in Group H, but they still have to host the leaders in the final round of matches.
Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic is a big-name absentee from the Croatia squad due to injury, while Borna Barisic is suspended for this match.
Kovacic, who started alongside Modric and Marcelo Brozovic in the 3-0 win against Cyprus last time out, is expected to be replaced by Mario Pasalic here.
Andrej Kramaric has not exactly been scoring goals for fun this season, but he should get the nod up top once again, with Ivan Perisic providing support from the left.
As for Malta, Steve Borg – who plies his trade for Maltese Premier League side Gzira United – will miss his side’s November double-header.
Enrico Pepe and Zach Muscat will hope to retain their places in the back three, which should be completed by the returning Kurt Shaw.
Malta possible starting lineup:
Bonello; Attard, Pepe, Muscat; Attard, Caruana, Teuma, Camenzuli; J.Mbong, P.Mbong; Montebello
Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Stanisic, Vida, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic; Ivanusec, Pasalic, Perisic; Kramaric
Over 1.5 Goals