Russia - Portugal Preview: Group F's heavyweights clash in Moscow
Both teams are putting their 100 per cent record on the line, as Cristiano Ronaldo makes the squad after injury concerns for the Portuguese but the hosts may have the advantage
By Craig Turnbull
Anyukov, Ber'skiy, Ignashevich, Kombarov
Denisov, Shirokov, Faizulin,
Dzagoev, Kerzhakov, Bystrov
Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao
Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles
Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
October 13 2004 is a date that the hosts will not forget in a hurry having suffered an ignominious 7-1 defeat at the hands of opponents Portugal. And while it is very unlikely for this score line to be repeated in Moscow on Friday, Fabio Capello's men will be determined to ensure they pick up what could eventually turn out to be three valuable points.
Both sides head into this clash with both with a 100 per cent record and seem, out of the rest of Group F, most likely to qualify, putting more pressure on results against each other for that automatic place in Brazil 2014.
Paul Bento's charges will be buoyed by the news that Cristiano Ronaldo has made a full recovery from his sprained shoulder he suffered in El Clasico last Sunday and should be fit to start against the hosts, but the visitors are sweating over the fitness of Pepe who admitted that he was a doubt.
Meanwhile, Capello has again left Arsenal winger Andrey Arshavin and Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak out of the squad for his team's clashes against the Seleccao and Azerbaijan this month.
The Italian coach may be struggling to adapt to the culture change in Russia but on the field he is having much more success having started his World Cup qualifying campaign impressively with his side having yet to concede a goal in Group F, beating Northern Ireland 2-0 and Israel 4-0.
Their opponents Portugal meanwhile, only did enough to beat Luxembourg 2-1 away but had a much more convincing 3-0 win at home against Azerbaijan.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Russia's last victory against the Portuguese was also their biggest having beat the Seleccao 5-0 back in 1983.
- Fabio Capello's men are ranked 12th in the world while their opponents are third behind Germany and world and European champions Spain.
- Russia have never lost to Portugal at home, winning in 1983 and drawing in 2005.
- Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured, right) scored a double as they inflicted on Russia their heaviest defeat ever back in 2004.
- The Seleccao are undefeated in their last three fixtures against the Russians.
- Paulo Bento has been in charge of Portugal since 2010, winning 15 of his 24 games in charge, with four draws and four losses.
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Top 3 Predictions
Russia 1-3 Portugal
- 19.13 %
Russia 1-2 Portugal
- 16.48 %
Russia 0-2 Portugal
- 8.96 %
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||7 Jun 2013||Portugal 1 - Russia 0|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||12 Oct 2012||Russia 1 - Portugal 0|
|5 Mar 2014||Russia 2 - Armenia 0||FR|
|19 Nov 2013||Russia 2 - South Korea 1||FR|
|15 Nov 2013||Russia 1 - Serbia 1||FR|
|15 Oct 2013||Azerbaijan 1 - Russia 1||WCQE|
|11 Oct 2013||Luxembourg 0 - Russia 4||WCQE|
Aleksandr Kerzhakov may have struggled to find his form at Euro 2012 and fallen out of favour with Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti temporarily, but the striker is still regarded as a highly important player under national coach Fabio Capello. The 29-year-old has scored eight goals this season and has found the net twice for Russia in their opening Group games. If he can get the service from players around him then Portugal will have to be wary of the talent he possesses.
What more is there to say about this player? Cristiano Ronaldo has scored over 150 goals in 150 plus games for Real Madrid while ensuring his side earned a point in El Clasico last Sunday as he netted twice. Recovering from a sprained shoulder to play in this match will give the whole team a lift as Portugal look a shadow of themselves without this influential figure involved in the proceedings. A delight to watch dazzle and entertain, and will be key to the Seleccao getting a result in Moscow.
Fabio Capello usually has his teams well organised and has made a fantastic start as coach of Russia. Portugal tend to struggle in the qualification stages and were less than convincing last time away to Luxembourg. Paulo Bento's men usually do enough to qualify, but having never beaten Russia in Moscow, the hosts may just fancy their chances to be top of Group F by Friday night.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed