Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko is urging his team not to underestimate the attacking threat of Macedonia, their opponents for Friday’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Moscow.
Russia are joint-top of Group B with the Republic of Ireland and Slovakia, who all have 13 points from six games. With Ireland and Slovakia facing off in Dublin on the same night, Russia potentially have the opportunity to move ahead in the group with four games remaining.
“Macedonia are the kind of opponents you have to approach very seriously, it will be difficult against them … but I have good memories from previous games, we always beat them,” Pavlyuchenko said.
Russia go into the match without first-choice goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. The CSKA Moscow captain suffered a knee injury after colliding mid-air with Spartak Moscow striker Welliton in the city derby on Sunday.
Zenit St. Petersburg stopper Vyacheslav Malafeev, who has made 18 appearances for the national team, will take his place.
“He’s an excellent keeper, he has huge match experience both in internationals and Champions League games,” said coach Dick Advocaat, who worked with Malafeev during his three years at Zenit, from 2006 to 2009.
Macedonia’s key player, Napoli striker Goran Pandev, sat out a training session earlier this week but should make coach John Toshack’s starting lineup. Pandev moved to Napoli on loan from Inter Milan last week.
Macedonia are all but out of the running in Group B, lying in fifth with four points.
Russia host Ireland on Tuesday, while Slovakia play Armenia, who are in fourth with eight points.