Having finally got rid of Fabio Capello, Russia resume the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a home game against Sweden, hoping to get back in contention for automatic qualifying berth. The Nordic side are already four points clear of the next opponents, meaning any result apart from defeat in Moscow will leave them in the driving seat for a top two finish.
Russia were widely regarded as the favourite to win the first place in Group G when the draw was made, but six games into the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and Sbornaya Komanda sit in third place, huge eight points behind leaders Austria. The entire nation agrees that Italian coach Fabio Capello is to blame for the disappointing results and the Russians were delighted to see the back of the former Real Madrid boss as the national team chiefs finally agreed on a severance package. His replacement Leonid Slutsky does look like the man who can restore order in the national team and there is still time for the Russians to turn things around considering they are in a good position to make it to the play-offs and still within a fighting chance of top two finish. Sbornaya Komanda may have suffered a narrow defeat to Austria last time out, but they were the better team throughout and definitely have reason for optimism ahead of the Sweden game. There have been no major missings for the hosts since the squad was named, with Roman Shirokov recovering from injury and in-form Fyodor Smolov expected to start up front ahead of Aleksandr Kokorin and Artyom Dzyuba.
Sweden have done really well to be in a position they are in at the moment and they head into the final four games of the campaign well clear of Russia in the race for the second place in the group. Blagult had a mixed start to the qualifying campaign, sharing spoils with the two strongest sides while the comfortable win over Liechtenstein was followed by yet another stalemate, this time in Montenegro. But, it was back to back wins over Moldova and Montenegro that saw Sweden seriously improve their position, mostly due to the fact that Russia could not get anything from the Austria match. Sweden now have an excellent opportunity to all but secure their place at the tournament finals by avoiding defeat in Russia and Blagult will be perfectly happy to sit back and wait for their opportunity on the break. The latest reports suggest striker Marcus Berg will be sacrificed in favour of a more defensive approach that should see fit-again Zlatan Ibrahimovic deployed as a lone striker. The visitors are without Martin Olsson, Mikael Lustig and Per Nilsson through injury, whereas Kim Kallstrom is banned.
As much as Russia need a win in this match, they cannot afford to go all guns blazing at their opponents since even one conceded goal would make their task a lot more difficult. And with Sweden widely expected to adopt a defence-minded approach, chances are we will see a low-scoring game.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 8/15
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