FIFA World Cup Qualification: Henrikh Mkhitaryan Returns As Armenia Visits North Macedonia
The Armenian national football team returns to action Thursday as they try to remain undefeated in Group J play when they take on North Macedonia in Matchday 4 of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Returning to the lineup is star midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who missed the first three matches due to injury. Despite his absence, Armenia went on to defeat Liechtenstein, Iceland and Romania and stand on top of Group J heading into Thursday’s action.
“My teammates have done a great job winning the first three games,” Mkhitaryan told media on Wednesday. “So we’re going to play only to win. Because we’re here to win games. We’re not here to waste our time. Of course, we’re ready for the game. We’ll do our best. We know the responsibility. We know the importance of the game.”
Despite Mkhitaryan’s return, the squad will be without three key players — Tigran Barseghyan, Khoren Bayramyan and Varazdat Haroyan.
“This is the life of national teams,” Armenian head coach Joaquin Caparros said. “Some players go and new players come. We have to deal with it and see what we’ll have (during the game).”
Caparros will also try to extend Armenia’s winning streak in non-friendly games to six. They haven’t lost a non-friendly since Caparros’ debut last September — a 2-1 loss to North Macedonia in the UEFA Nations League tournament.
North Macedonia, who went winless in the 2020 Euro Cup, enters the match without its star legend Goran Pandev and will have a new head coach at the helm, but Caparros knows the task at hand.
“I have a very good opinion on the Macedonian trip,” Caparros told media. “Of course, they have a new head coach, but 80 percent of the players will be the same. I think we have to stick to our game and try to achieve a good result.”
Armenia has played North Macedonia six times in its history and are 2-2-2 against the eastern European country. North Macedonia is the -120 favorite, according to DraftKings sportsbook, while Armenia is a +350 underdog.