Northern Ireland - Russia Preview: Capello's men look to continue perfect record

The visitors are on the hunt for a fifth straight win to continue their World Cup 2014 qualifying adventure in Group F with Michael O'Neill's boys in desperate need of a victory


Cathcart, McAuley, Evans, Bruce
Davis, McCann, Brunt, Ferguson
Ward, Paterson

Anyukov, V.B'skiy, Ignashevich, A.B'skiy
Denisov, Faizulin
Bystrov, Dzagoev, Shirokov

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill misses a pair of regulars on suspension, Fulham midfielder Chris Baird and FC Sion's Kyle Lafferty, and thus will be forced to reshuffle part of his line-up.

Rangers' Dean Shiels (knee) is also set to watch from the sidelines, meaning Championship duo Jamie Ward and Martin Paterson are expected to form a partnership up front.

Former England boss Fabio Capello brings a robust squad to Windsor Park as his Group F-leading side return to competitive action, with Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev, and Sergei Ignashevich all available and likely to start.

The Italian tactician once again has chosen to banish veterans Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak from the national team, but could hand 26-year-old Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Dmitry Tarasov his maiden cap after a last-minute call-up.

Russia could be without ex-Chelsea midfielder Yuri Zhirkov, who is struggling with a muscular injury, for the encounter.

  • 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.
  • Every player named in Capello's squad for the match is based in the Russian Premier League, drawn from a total of seven clubs.
  • 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.
  • Russia are yet to lose since Capello assumed the helm in July 2012, posting five wins and two draws in between friendlies and competitive fixtures.
  • Roy Carroll and Kyle Lafferty are the only two players in the Northern Ireland squad who do not ply their trade in England or Scotland at club level, putting their talents on display in Greece and Switzerland respectively.