Russia v Northern Ireland: Tough start expected for Northern Ireland
Aleksandr Kerzakhov may have done his best to rile up the Northern Irish ahead of this match in Moscow, yet a price of 1/5 for the hosts to triumph suggests this will have no effect on the outcome of the game.
Kerzakhov stated in a press conference that he’d ‘never heard’ of Northern Ireland; their giant-killing exploits against England, Portugal and, most notably, Spain failing to blip on his radar.
It’s six years to the day since Northern Ireland toppled the current World and European champions in a 3-2 win at Windsor Park but, based on current form, a replication of such a result does not appear forthcoming.
The visitors to the Lokomotiv Stadium are without a win in seven and, prior to their 3-3 goal fest with Finland last time out, had lost six straight scoring just twice.
In addition to this, Northern Ireland have not won an away match against a side that wasn’t either San Marino or Liechtenstein since 2004 and, with only one competitive win since 2009, discounting the walking defeat that is San Marino again, it’s hard to look past a Russian three points.
Fabio Capello marks his first competitive match in charge of the Russians by omitting Andrey Arshavin – the nation’s captain at Euro 2012 – from his squad entirely.
A move decorated with all the stone-hearted hallmarks of Capello but the side he has inherited has not conceded a goal in three competitive games on home soil.
Compare this to the 22 times that the man between the sticks for Northern Ireland has picked the ball out the back net in their last seven run outs, emphasising the gulf between the two nations.
It looks as though the best Northern Ireland can hope for is to give Kerzhakov a bit of kicking, or at least stop him opening the scoring, which he’s priced at 11/4 to do.
All Odds and Markets correct as of the time of publication