It’s crunch time for Ireland on Sept. 6th when they take on Russia at Luzhniki Stadium in an away game in Group B of Euro qualifying. Russia sits on top of the group with 16 points from five wins, a draw and a loss while Ireland is two points back of them with 14 points from 4 wins, two draws and two losses. The Irish desperately need to pick up three points as they’re tied with Slovakia for second place and are just three points ahead of Armenia. All teams in the group have played seven games. Whoever finishes second in this group also has a shot at making the championships in Poland and Ukraine next year, so it’s even all the more important.
Ireland, Russia, and Slovakia were all tied last week with 13 points, but Russia managed to beat Macedonia 1-0 on Sept. 2nd while Ireland and Slovakia battled to a 0-0 draw in Dublin. This meant Russia gained two points on its nearest rivals and put them in the driver’s seat. A loss to Russia here would put Ireland five points behind with just two games to go. Slovakia also plays Armenia on Sept. 6th, so the group will be a lot clearer after the games.
Russia beat Ireland 3-2 in their first Euro 2012 qualifying match last October in Dublin. The Russians built up a 3-0 lead by the 50th minute but Ireland narrowed the gap with goals in the 72nd and 78th minutes. However, it was a classic case of too little too late. In 14 games total between the two countries, Ireland has won four games, lost seven and drawn three. They’ve lost all four games they’ve played in Russia.
Defender Sean St Ledger will miss the game due to suspension after picking up a yellow card against Slovakia. This means Darren O’Dea of Leeds could play instead. Captain Robbie Keane is expected to play along with keeper Shay Given, even though they’re not fully fit. Striker Shane Long has been sent back to his club along with and defenders Kevin Kilbane and John O’Shea as they’re injured.
Defender Sergei Ignashevich returns to the Russian squad after suspension, but midfielder Igor Denisov sits out due to one.
Ireland has a tough task ahead of them especially with the game being played on an artificial surface. They may get a draw out of their trip, but a win is unlikely.
Sportsbook William Hill has the odds of a Russia win listed at 4/5 with an Ireland victory at 19/5 and a draw at 12/5.
Goalkeepers: Vyacheslav Malafeev (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Anton Shunin (FC Dinamo Moskva)
Defenders: Aleksandr Anyukov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Vasili Berezutski (PFC CSKA Moskva), Aleksei Berezutski (PFC CSKA Moskva), Sergei Ignashevich (PFC CSKA Moskva), Yuri Zhirkov (FC Anzhi Makhachkala), Roman Shishkin (FC Lokomotiv Moskva).
Midfielders: Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (Everton FC), Denis Glushakov (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Dmitri Torbinski (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Igor Denisov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Alan Dzagoev (PFC CSKA Moskva), Igor Semshov (FC Dinamo Moskva).
Forwards: Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal FC), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Pavel Pogrebnyak (VfB Stuttgart).
Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Aston Villa FC), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland AFC), David Forde (Millwall FC).
Defenders: John O’Shea (Sunderland AFC), Kevin Foley (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Stephen Kelly (Fulham FC), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa FC), Kevin Kilbane (Derby County FC), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City FC), Darren O’Dea (Leeds United AFC).
Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke City FC), Darron Gibson (Manchester United FC), Keith Andrews (Ipswich Town FC), Andy Keogh (Leeds United AFC), Aiden McGeady (FC Spartak Moskva), Damien Duff (Fulham FC), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth FC), Keith Treacy (Burnley FC).
Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion FC), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion FC).