Russia and France would both be looking to bounce back from their respective defeats as they face each other at the Krestovsky Stadium on Tuesday.
Russia have a lot to ponder upon. The hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup looked clueless for large portions of the game against Brazil and were lucky to come away with just a 3-0 defeat. They now face another strong contender for the premiere competition in France on Tuesday.
France have problems of their own to sort. The Euro 2016 runners-up failed to hold a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Colombia. While they seem to be on song when going forward, their leaky defence needs to be addressed if they are to put up a formidable front in the summer.
Their last encounter saw France emerge victorious over Russia by a 4-2 scoreline and Didier Deschamps would be looking for his side to send out a warning to all the other competitors with a thumping win over the hosts. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Roman Zobnin is unlikely to be take part in the game after picking up a knock against Brazil. While Igor Akinfeev will keep his place, there should be a change in defence after the drubbing at the hands of Brazil. Stanislav Cherchesov should ideally retain the three-man backline, but we could see Roman Neustadter come into the backline in stead of Fedor Kudryashov.
We could see a shift to a 3-4-2-1 on Tuesday to give better shape to the attack. Yuri Zhirkov should come into the lineup, taking his spot on the left midfield while Aleksandr Samedov retains his spot on the right.
The central midfield duo of Aleksandr Golovin and Anton Shvets would be key to Russia’s fortunes as they attempt to neutralise the threat posed by the French midfield. The two-pronged support in attack will be tasked upon Alan Dzagoev and Aleksey Miranchuk, with Fedor Smolov leading the Russian attack.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Akinfeev; Kutepov, Granat, Neustadter; Samedov, Shvets, Golovin, Zhirkov; Miranchuk, Dzagoev; Smolov
Didier Deschamps has a lot to ponder upon after being handed a shock defeat by Colombia. Samuel Umtiti and Hugo Lloris were not at their best and could compel the manager to try out a few new faces in their stead.
There are no real alternatives available to Deschamps on either side of defence, which means Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibe are guaranteed starters unless the manager opts for a three-man backline, a highly unlikely prospect.
While Lloris could retain his spot, we should see Laurent Koscielny return to the lineup to partner Raphael Varane at the back. Paul Pogba should also return to the starting eleven to partner N’Golo Kante while the front four should also be revamped to an extent as Deschamps looks to try out all options ahead of the World Cup.
Anthony Martial could get a look in on the left side of the midfield instead of Thomas Lemar while the other places are likely to be taken up by the familiar faces.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Sidibe, Varane, Koscielny, Digne; Pogba, Kante; Mbappe, Griezmann, Martial; Giroud
1. Russia have failed to beat any of the top 10 sides under the reign of Stanislav Cherchesov, losing 3 and drawing the other 3 games.
2. In fact, Cherchesov has the worst record as the Russian National Team Manager among others with atleast 10 matches in charge of the team, with an average 1.18 potential points per game over 17 games thus far.
3. France’s defeat to Colombia came after an undefeated streak of 7 matches – matches that included victories over Wales, Netherlands and England.
4. After conceding just 1 goal in 5 games, France have leaked in 5 goals in their last 2 games – 2 against Germany and 3 against Colombia.
5. Olivier Giroud needs one more goal to go level with Zinedine Zidane at fourth on the all-time scorers list for France (31), behind David Trezequet, Thierry Henry and Michel Platini.
Player to Watch
The Manchester United superstar has been having a turbulent time of late. Benched at both the club level and the international level, he is expected to start against Russia on Tuesday and will be looking to show that his loss in form is just a minor blip and he still remains one of the key players for France heading into the World Cup.
A good performance on Tuesday might bode well for the player at club level as well.
Russia 2-4 France
This is expected to be a goal glut. France’s attack is too top-heavy while their defence still seems to be shaky, meaning Russia will get fair amount of chances at their goal. The French though, are likely to triumph, with the gulf in quality one of the main reasons.
Still, we expect both the teams to go for the jugular, which should produce an entertaining match for the viewers – one that we tip France to prevail by a two-goal margin.