September 6th 2010
Having beaten Andorra away from home, Russia now have a good chance to stake their claim for the first place in the group with the home win over Slovakia. Vladimir Weiss’ side also got off to a winning start as they beat Macedonia thanks to a late goal but they now face a very difficult task at Luzhniki.
Missing out on the World Cup after the elimination from Slovenia in the play-offs was a big blow for Russia and the players are now determined to make amends for it. Guus Hiddink resigned from the post after agreeing to coach Turkey and he was replaced by Dick Advocaat, another Dutch coach with a wealth of football experience. The new boss changed almost nothing before the start of the new qualifying campaign with Russia beating Andorra few days ago thanks to Pavel Pogrebnyak’s brace. The Russians now face the first real test as they play host to very good Slovakia side in what is almost a must-win game for them. The artificial surface at Luzhniki Stadium and the big support from the stands should help the hosts in this game and that should see them take good use of their superior quality. The boss is unlikely to make any changes to the team that started the Andorra match, with Arshavin and Pogrebnyak set to continue their fruitful partnership up front.
Slovakia surprised quite a few football experts by qualifying for the World Cup, but despite making it to the last 16 stage, their showings were far from impressive. Vladimir Weiss’ side struggled against both New Zeland and Paraguay, before playing a good game against pathetic Italy, which was their only decent performance in South Africa. They started the Euro 2012 qualifiers with a narrow win over Macedonia, which was achieved by scoring in the dying moments of the match when the opponents were reduced to ten men. Therefore, it is clear the team’s form is on the downtrend and against a side like Russia, which are more than capable of punishing every opponent’s mistake, they don’t have much to hope for. The visitors obviously have got a couple of very good players like Hamsik, Stoch and Skrtel but there is no real balance in the team and that is likely to be a big problem in Russia.
Both sides are far from their desired form but Russia look a bit better at the moment and with quality and home field advantage also on their side, the hosts are clearly favourites for the win. Given the low odds offered on home win, this is not one of the best football predictions you can find, but Russia’s win shouldn’t come into question.
Verdict: Home win Russia (1)
Best Odds: 4/7
Bookmaker: Victor Chandler
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