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WC Qualification Europe

  • August 15, 2013
  • • 02:45
  • • 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.

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