Russia and injury-hit Slovakia, who shared a World Cup qualifying group, resume hostilities on the road to Euro 2012 on Tuesday.
Both teams started their qualifying campaigns with wins on Friday with Russia chalking up a nervy 2-0 victory at little Andorra, while Slovakia scraped a hard-fought 1-0 home win against Macedonia.
The teams share a tough Group B with Ireland who saw off Armenia 1-0 in Yerevan on Friday and look to have a home banker in Dublin on Tuesday against Andorra.
There was nothing to separate Russia and Slovakia in World Cup qualifying with their two games ending deadlocked at 1-1 in Moscow and 0-0 at Bratislava.
But it was Slovakia who went on to make the finals in South Africa while Russia perished in the play-offs at the hands of Slovenia.
Russia coach Dick Advocaat is optimistic about Tuesday’s clash.
“We started this qualifying campaign with a strong desire to show our worth,” Advocaat said.
“It’s the last chance to play in the European championship finals for a group of our players.
“We must make the Euro 2012 finals. It’s very important for Russia after the country failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.
“We all understand the importance of the upcoming match. We need to win it. It would be good to show also spectacular football but the result is the most important thing in this case.”
Slovakia manager Vladimir Weiss knows Russia well having coached a crop of Premier League clubs in the country and the team were buoyed by beating Italy in the World Cup finals in the summer before progressing to the second round.
Slovakia midfielder Kamil Kopunek, who plays with Russian Premier League side Ramenskoye, said he and his teammates were looking forward to the match at Moscow’s Lokomotiv stadium.
“We will do our best to win,” said Kopunek, who scored Slovakia’s winner in the match against Italy.
“A draw, of course, will also be a positive result for us but we will battle for the win.”
Slovakia will be without attacking midfielder Stanislav Sestak, their top scorer in the World Cup qualifying campaign, who is sidelined with injury.
Slovakia’s team doctor Lasislav Pavlovic said that forward Tomas Oravec will also miss the match.
Striker Robert Vittek, the team’s leading marksman in the World Cup finals, remains uncertain through injury.
“The decision about his participation in the match will be finalised on Tuesday,” Pavlovic said.
Russia should field a full-strength side with Yury Zhirkov, who plays with English champions Chelsea, available after serving a one-match suspension.
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