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WC Qualification Europe

  • 14 August 2013
  • • 19:45
  • • Windsor Park, Belfast
  • Referee: T. Hagen
  • • Attendance: 11178
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Northern Ireland - Russia Preview: Capello's men out to regain top spot against winless hosts

Northern Ireland - Russia Preview: Capello's men out to regain top spot against winless hosts

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The eastern Europeans currently trail leaders Portugal by two points in Group F but have games in hand over their rivals heading into the re-arranged clash in Belfast on Wednesday

  PROBABLE LINEUPS

NORTHERN IRELAND

Carroll
Hughes, McAuley, Bruce, Lafferty
Davis, McCann, McGinn, Ferguson
Ward, Paterson

RUSSIA


Akinfeev
Anyukov, V.Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Granat
Denisov, Faizulin
Bystrov, Dzagoev, Shirokov
Kerzhakov

Having yet to record a victory in Group F, Northern Ireland's chances of qualifying for Brazil 2014 are all but over, however, the hosts will be keen to restore some pride to an extremely disappointing campaign.

Since taking over in February 2012, Michael O'Neill is yet to taste victory in charge of the national side and will have to do without several of his experienced players for the visit of Russia on Wednesday.

David Healy, Paddy McCourt and Chris Baird have all been omitted from the 20-man squad as they are currently without a club while Manchester United's Jonny Evans is unlikely to feature after missing the Community Shield final with an ankle injury.

Kyle Lafferty was a late withdrawal from the squad with injury and midfielder Chris Brunt will be forced to watch from the stands after incurring a ban of his own.

The visitors have plenty of injury problems of their own as Fabio Capello faces a selection headache for the crucial qualifier in Belfast.

The 67-year-old tactician has picked a 24-man squad that includes regulars Igor Akinfeev, Alexander Kerzhakov and Sergei Ignashevich but there is no place for former Arsenal striker Andrey Arshavin, who has been excluded despite his recent return to the Russian Premier League to join Zenit.

Other notable absentees include Alexander Kokorin (heel), CSKA's Alexei Berezutsky (collarbone) and former Chelsea defender Yury Zhirkov (hamstring).

Consequently, the former England manager has been forced to call on fresh faces for the trip including Real Madrid striker Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba, who currently leads the goal scoring charts in Russia.


  DID YOU KNOW?
  • Northern Ireland and Russia meet for only the second time in a competitive fixture in their history. The eastern Europeans emerged victorious 2-0 back in September in Moscow in their first bout of consequence.
  • Russia are unbeaten in five previous clashes with Northern Ireland (including as Soviet Union), winning three and drawing two.
  • Both draws between these two sides, however, have occurred in their two clashes in Belfast, with Russia winning all three home games against Northern Ireland without conceding a goal.
  • Russia striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov (pictured right) netted his first competitive goal for the national side since October 2010 against Israel in September, and sits four behind Vladimir Beschastnyk in second place on his country's all-time scoring chart.
  • Northern Ireland have not qualified for the World Cup finals since 1986, whilst the Russians are themselves without a berth since 2002.
  • Since their last finals appearance in 1986, Northern Ireland have not finished higher than fourth in a World Cup qualifying group.
  • Michael O'Neill's side are winless in 13 international games (D5 L7) since defeating Faroe Islands 4-0 in August 2011.

Players to watch

N. McGinn

Position: Midfielder

Games: 8

  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
In the absence of Chris Brunt and Paddy McCourt, the onus will be on the Aberdeen midfielder to provide the front two with support from the central areas. McGinn enjoyed a fruitful season in Scotland last campaign and will be eager to replicate his club performances in the green of Northern Ireland when given the opportunity. The 26-year-old is a quick but very direct operator who has an eye for goal despite only netting once for his country. However, he's not afraid to get stuck in and he'll need to put himself about if the hosts are to have any chance of stopping their superior opponents dominate proceedings on Wednesday.

A. Kerzhakov

Position: Attacker

Games: 10

  • 5
  • 0
  • 0
The 30-year-old striker has been an everpresent for his country since making his debut over a decade ago and despite a barron run on front of goal last year, is still the Russian's most potent threat. His ability to drop deep and link up the play as well as being able to find the net once the chance is afforded to him, means he is a constant thorn in the opposition defence. After Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Pavel Pogrebnyak were all dropped following a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, the Zenit forward has the added responsibility of being Capello's first choice and only experienced striker and should prove too hot to handle for a shaky Northern Ireland rear guard.

Kerzhakov turned 30 in November and will be keen to continue his wonderful run of form, being wary of the fates of Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko's international careers. The extra motivation, along with the attention that Dzagoev garners from would-be markers on the pitch, serve to make the experienced striker especially dangerous against a Northern Ireland team that cannot afford to concede.

Editor's Prediction

The visitors will arrive in Belfast confident they can pick up the three points needed to re-take top spot in Group F but won't be taking anything for granted despite Northern Ireland's dismal recent record. There's always an intimidating atmosphere at Windsor Park where the passionate locals are right on top of the action but the Russians should have far too much quality and guile to overcome a challenge which may just fade as the game wears on especially considering the timing of the game.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Northern Ireland

Russia

Wins
1
0
1
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Northern Ireland NIR
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland
Draw
Russia RUS
Russia Russia
79%

Top 3 Predictions

Northern Ireland NIR
0 - 2
Russia RUS
Northern Ireland NIR
1 - 2
Russia RUS
Northern Ireland NIR
0 - 3
Russia RUS

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