Russia v Saudi Arabia – Preview, Predictions and Betting Tips
14th June 2018 – 16.00 GMT
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Hosts Russia will try to get their World Cup campaign off to a winning start when they face Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday afternoon.
The Russians come into the tournament in poor form but will fancy their chances of beating Saudi Arabia – the clear outsiders in Group A this summer.
Stanislav Cherchesov has tried to continue something of an overhaul in the Russian national team since he was appointed in 2016, with experienced heads such as Sergei Ignashevich and Vasiliy Berezutski exiting the international scene. But with little talent coming through, his attempt to freshen up have fallen flat.
Injuries have also forced Russia to compromise; 38-year-old Ignashevich is now back in the fold and the squad has less dynamism than Cherchesov may want.
While there’s indecision on the pitch in the Russian camp, it’s in the dugout where there’s been changes in the run-up to the tournament for their opponents. Bert van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to the finals but left soon after due to a dispute with the FA. Argentinian Edgardo Bauza came in but lasted just three months before being replaced by ex-Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Pizzi failed to help Chile to the finals but did reach the Confederations Cup final with La Roja last year. His know-how will be vital if the Green Falcons are to avoid an early exit.
Many onlookers expect Saudi Arabia to be the whipping boys at this summer’s World Cup, but their performances in the run-up to the competition have been quietly effective. Victories over Algeria and Greece may have the Russians viewing this as a potential banana skin.
The hosts are heavy odds-on favourites to win this and – given the circumstances and form going into the game as well as the expectation on Russia as the home side – it makes little sense to back them at 2/7 at William Hill.
Instead, it may prove to be value to back Saudi Arabia to frustrate Cherchesov’s side, especially in light of their recent clean sheets against Algeria and Greece. The Green Falcons to win with a one-goal head start is at 5/2 with Betfair.
- Russia and Saudi Arabia have met just once before, with the latter winning 4-2 in October 1993
- Mohammad Al Sahlawi was Saudi Arabia’s top goalscorer in qualifying, scoring 16 times –
- To score at anytime against Russia – 23/5
- Russia have not won any of their last five matches at World Cup finals, a run stretching back to 2002
- Saudi Arabia are without a victory at the World Cup in ten matches (D2 L8)
- Stanislav Cherchesov has the worst win percentage of any Russia coach this century (18 matches – 27.8%)
- Saudi Arabia to beat Russia, draw no bet – 9/1
Russia: Igor Akinfeev (captain), Mário Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich, Andrei Semyonov, Denis Cheryshev, Daler Kuzyayev, Yury Gazinsky, Alan Dzagoev, Fyodor Smolov, Roman Zobnin, Andrey Lunyov, Fyodor Kudryashov, Vladimir Granat, Aleksei Miranchuk, Anton Miranchuk, Aleksandr Golovin, Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Samedov, Vladimir Gabulov, Aleksandr Yerokhin, Artem Dzyuba, Igor Smolnikov,
Saudi Arabia: Abdullah Al-Mayouf, Mansoor Al-Harbi, Osama Hawsawi (captain), Ali Al-Bulaihi, Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Al-Breik, Salman Al-Faraj, Yahya Al-Shehri, Hattan Bahebri, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Mohamed Kanno, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Abdullah Otayf, Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Housain Al-Mogahwi, Taisir Al-Jassim, Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Muhannad Assiri, Yasser Al-Mosailem, Mohammed Al-Owais, Motaz Hawsawi.