Russia have held their first training session ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Armenia. Dick Advocaat’s men hold a two-point advantage at the top of their group, but will face a tough test in Yerevan against the group’s surprise package.
Saturday’s away trip to Armenia will be the midway point in Russia’s campaign to reach the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
The domestic season only re-started a couple of weeks ago after the winter break. However, a lack of match practice won’t affect the likes of Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko, who are coming towards the end of their campaigns abroad.
And another expat, Dinyar Bilyaletdinov, says the team is raring to go.
“It’s difficult for me to talk on behalf of the players based in Russia, but if you are in form, it doesn’t really matter what stage of the season you are at,” he says.
“However, I’m feeling fairly fresh myself at the moment, as I haven’t been playing as much as I’d like. The guys in Russia have already been playing for a couple of months, so they should be fine.”
There are a few new faces in Dick Advocaat’s squad. Aleksey Ionov has been rewarded for his good start to the new season with Zenit, as has Denis Glushakov with Lokomotiv.
Both are unlikely to feature, however, but one newcomerwho has every chance of making his debut is Evgeny Makeev. Spartak Moscow’s young left back could replace the suspended Aleksandr Anyukov.
Russia’s head coach isn’t giving any clues away as to who may start against Armenia. However, he did say it’s a good opportunity for these three players to join up with the full squad.
Russia currently sit top of the group on 9 points. However, Armenia, who have already beaten Slovakia – something Dick Advocaat’s side failed to do – are just two points behind.
The Russians played their last competitive encounter, which they won, in October against Macedonia,.
Since then, they have slipped to two very disappointing friendly defeats against Belgium and Iran – and the Dutchman promises his team will improve.
Saturday’s game will be Russia’s third qualifying match in a row away from home. However, it could turn out to be one of the hardest,with Advocaat’s side having to deal with an intimidating atmosphere in the Armenian capital, and against the surprise package of Group B so far.