Preview NIR-RUS: Capello Looks to Continue Perfection
Just a day from now, Russia will be taking on Northern Ireland in Belfast to continue an undefeated perfect run in their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. So far, Russia defeated Northern Ireland, Israel, Portugal, and Azerbaijan. This match will set the stage for the Lisbon showdown against Portugal in June.
Capello and his men know that anything less than a victory will soften their Group F cushion against Portugal. Portugal in the meantime, will be playing against Israel in Tel Aviv. Despite the loss of Nani, Portugal are widely expected to walk away with all three points.
Capello has picked a usual squad by recalling many of the established players he did not call up for the last two friendlies against the United States and Iceland. With Yuri Zhirkov an injury doubt, Yevgeni Yeschenko or Dmitri Kombarov will likely take the left back duties. Notable call ups include Kirill Nababkin, Vladimir Granat, and Dmitri Tarasov all of whom return after a lengthy absence.
Capello will likely use an attacking formation to score an early goal and dominate the match early. In September, Capello a 4-2-3-1 which worked very well in controlling the passing and tempo of the game. Aside from the already mentioned change at the back, Capello will likely play four or five midfielders. Viktor Fayzulin, Roman Shirokov, and Igor Denisov are likely to form the core of the lineup that will dictate the game. On the wings, Capello may give Aleksandr Samedov or recent debutant Oleg Shatov a chance while Dmitri Kombarov also remains a possibility.
Up front the obvious first choice candidate is Aleksandr Kerzhakov, but with the recent form of Aleksandr Kokorin, Capello may have some considerations to make. Kokorin has been a first choice player this season at Dynamo Moskva and has so far found the net nine times in just over twenty league games. He might me worthy of a starting place.
Players to Watch
Igor Denisov: the current captain of the team will control the tempo of the game. His partnership with Shirokov will feed the ball forward to Fayzulin.
Aleksandr Anyukov: the fullback is one of the less mentioned players in the team, he will most likely be a starter and will cover the right flank.
The match will be live on ESPN3 at 3.45PM EDT in the US.
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