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The Green and White Army make a tough start to life under a new boss, travelling away to Moscow. Al Hain-Cole expects them to return empty handed, without even a goal to their name

Northern Ireland’s World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign marks the beginning of a new era under Michael O'Neill, and the former Shamrock Rovers boss could not have asked for a more difficult first competitive game in charge.

The Green and White Army make the daunting trip to Russia on Friday, who themselves are beginning life under new boss Fabio Capello.

The hosts have only lost three of their last 52 World and European Cup qualifiers on home soil, and are overwhelming 2/9 (1.22) favourites with Paddy Power to collect all three points on Friday.

With just one win in their last 13 competitive matches, it would take quite some effort for O’Neill to turn Northern Ireland’s fortunes around and achieve his maiden win at the first attempt, at odds of 12/1 (13.00).

Republic of Ireland achieved an impressive 0-0 draw in Russia during their successful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, and their neighbours would be delighted to repeat that feat in this match.

You can get odds of 5/1 (6.00) on Northern Ireland picking up a priceless point at the Stadion Lokomotiv, which would really give themselves something to build on going forwards.

Although they impressed many neutrals with some free-flowing attacking play during the summer’s European Championship, Russia’s place in Ukraine and Poland was largely secured on the back of their resolute defensive record.

The Sbornaya conceded just four goals in their 10 qualifying matches, keeping seven clean sheets in the process.

With the appointment of the canny Capello sure to strengthen this miserly streak, the visitors will struggle for goals here, particularly as they have failed to score in four of their last five away from home.

With that in mind, a bet on Russia to win to nil seems particularly safe, and is available at tempting 8/11 (1.73) odds.

Although Euro 2012 my have ultimately ended in premature disappointment for Russia, one man certainly managed to make a name for himself in his short stint in the spotlight.

Alan Dzagoev bagged three goals in three games during the tournament, and has since scored the first goal of the Capello era in a friendly against the Cote d'Ivoire.

He has now opened the scoring in three of Russia last four matches, so is certainly worth backing at 7/2 (4.50) to do just that against their modest visitors.

BET
OF THE
DAY
BEST BET
VALUE BET
Russia to win to nil at 8/11 (1.73) with Paddy Power
Dzagoev to score first at 7/2 (4.50) with Paddy Power

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Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.

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