Russia vs. Saudi Arabia: 2018 World Cup – Match Preview

Host nation Russia kick off the 2018 World Cup against group minnows Saudi Arabia on Thursday afternoon.

Russia’s build up to the tournament has been farcical and there is real doubts about whether they can progress through the group stages.

Pre-tournament friendly results have been poor, having been beaten by Austria and held to a draw with Turkey, two countries who failed to qualify.

The hosts will also have to do without key forward Aleksandr Kokorin, who suffered an ACL injury back in February.

Saudi Arabia’s preparations have hardly been ideal either, losing two managers since qualification.

The former Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi will lead the Asian country at the competition.

In their final friendly before the opening game, Saudi Arabia performed well in a narrow 2-1 defeat away to Germany.

The two nations have met just once before, with Saudi Arabia winning 4-2 way back in 1993.

Under 1.5 goals: 2/1 with Bet 365

Team news
The big dilemma in the Russian XI is who will start at right-back, with Mario Fernandes and Igor Smolnikov going head to head. The latter is favourite to get the nod.

Former Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov is set to start on the opposite side.

Saudi forward Nawaf Al-Abed has been ruled out of the competition, a real blow for the Asian’s.

Key man Al-Dawsari is fit though and will start in a left sided role

Predicted starting XI’s
Russia (4-3-3): Akinfeev; Smolnikov, Kudryashov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Zobnin, Kuzyaev, Golovin; Samedov, Smolov, Dzagoev
Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Al Maiouf; Al Shahrani, O. Hawsawi, I. Hawsawi, Al Harbi; Otayf, Al Jassim, Al Faraj; Al Shehri, Al Muwallad, Al-Dawsari

Predictions

Result: Russia (4/9 with Sky Bet)

Correct Score: 1-0 (17/4 with 888 Sport)

Anytime Goalscorer: Fyodor Smolov (Evens with Sky Bet)

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