England U21s coach Stuart Pearce predicts a tense affair at Carrow Road

England U21s coach Stuart Pearce is predicting a Carrow Road cracker when the Three Lions take on Serbia tomorrow in their Euro2013 qualifying play-off, first leg tie (6pm).

City officials are hopeful an 18,000 plus crowd will play their part in tipping the balance with a place at next summer's finals in Israel at stake over the two-legged tie. Pearce, speaking at his pre-match press call at Carrow Road on Thursday lunchtime, has warned the Serbs pose a serious threat.

'I think anyone at this stage of the tournament would be tough but we have pulled a team out of the hat who were unbeaten during qualification,' he said. 'Defensively, they are very strong and probably they are in a similar situation to ourselves in the sense they have players who have gone into the senior set-up and come back down again. It won't be won or lost on Friday evening. I am sure it will go over both legs and it will be very tight. We expect maybe the odd goal could decide this tie either way.

'The manager works at Red Star (Belgrade) and they have a lot of players from that club so that will help him. They are a good side. Anytime you have played against them over the last few years you know how tough it will be. They have been to the U21 finals a number of years. We played them in my first campaign and they had the likes of (Branislav) Ivanovic in the side. We are under no illusions but we feel we have some good players, we are a decent team and it will be a great advert for U21 football over two legs.'

The Carrow Road crowd could be treated to another glimpse of Liverpool's exciting teenage wide player Raheem Sterling after his recent Premier League visit to Norfolk. Pearce has been impressed by the youngster following his first call up to this level, but Manchester United's Nick Powell will not feature after returning to his club earlier today.

'Nick we've not seem, I'm afraid, he has had a bug since day one he has been with us,' said Pearce. 'We've given it every opportunity for him to shake the bug off but we have had to send him back to his club today. Raheem has been very good, outstanding. He has brought his club form into the U21s and he has looked very, very good. So it has been a contrasting tale. Nick we hope will overcome his illness and be back with us in due course.'

After tomorrow's first leg, the return match is next Tuesday in Serbia.

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• Tickets for Friday's first leg game are �10 for adults, and �5 for under-18s, over-65s, and students. A family ticket is available at �20 (two adults, two under-18s). They are available by calling 0844 826 1902, or online, or from ticket office at Carrow Road or the Canary Stores at Chapelfield or The Mall.

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