It will be a battle for the top position in Group A as Uruguay and Russia go head to head in their final group stage match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Russia have been the headline story of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and for all the right reasons. Not only do the players seem more energised than ever, the home side have really turned around their form, which was near-disastrous coming into the World Cup.

Two matches, 8 goals later – Russia find themselves in the running to top Group A, with qualification already secured.

Uruguay, on the other hand, have had a real tough time, grinding out results against Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But, the South American side somehow overcame both the nations with a one-goal margin to book their place in the playoffs. Luis Suarez & co. can still grab the top spot in Group A, but need a win to do so.

With both the nations looking to go at it for the top spot and potentially, an easier opponent to face in the Round of 16, we take a closer look at the two squads.

Team News & Tactics

Uruguay

Oscar Tabarez will be aware of the lack of domination on display in Uruguay’s two group stage matches so far. While they have secured qualification, their struggles have been rather visible to the crowd and the viewers. The manager might look to try some new things out in order to inspire the squad.

While the defence and the forward line are set to be retained, Tabarez could opt to rest veteran Carlos Sanchez. If it does happen, expect Nahitan Nandez to take up the spot on the right. Lucas Torreira could also be afforded a start in midfield in case Tabarez opts for a 4-3-3, which would see Cristian Rodriguez be sacrificed.

Alternatively, Torreira could come into the lineup for Matias Vecino, who has been the lesser impressive of the midfield pairing comprising of the Inter Milan man and Rodrigo Bentancur.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Muslera; Varela, Gimenez, Godin, Caceres; Nandez, Torreira, Bentancur, Rodriguez; Cavani, Suarez

Russia

Stanislav Cherchesov should not even be having any thoughts of chopping and changing. Russia have somehow managed to click and the manager would not want the home nation to lose their rhythm due to a change of personnel. Alan Dzagoev is set to continue his run on the sidelines due to the hamstring injury suffered in the opening fixture against Saudi Arabia.

Artem Dzyuba should retain his place upfront after having made good of the chance provided to him over Fyodor Smolov, who did start the first game of the World Cup.

Russia will have most of his attacks going through Denis Cheryshev on the right wing, with Aleksandr Golovin likely to be looking to exploit the holes in between the defence and midfield.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Akinfeev; Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Gazinskiy, Zobnin; Cheryshev, Golovin, Samedov; Dzyuba

Key Stats

1. Russia have scored more goals in the two games at this World Cup thus far than their last two World Cup campaigns combined.

2. The last three European hosts of a World Cup have all won three out of three games in the group stage of the respective World Cup editions. (Germany’06, France’98 and Italy’90)

3. Russia had never managed to go past the group stage at a World Cup since their entry into the event as Russia and not Soviet Union.

4. Fernando Muslera is set to be the seventh Uruguayan to join the 100-club with a start against Russia.

4. Luis Suarez can cross Diego Forlan into second on the list of most World Cup goals for Uruguay (both at 6 currently) with a goal against Russia. The Barcelona forward is just 2 goals away from Oscar Miguez, who tops the charts.

Player to Watch

Yuri Gazinskiy

Heading in the right direction? (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Heading in the right direction? (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

If there has been one true breakout player for Russia, it has been the 28-year-old holding midfielder. While Denis Cheryshev has had the most hands-on impact, Gazinsky’s influence cannot be undermined. Now, dominating Saudi Arabia’s midfield was not as tedious a task.

But, the way Russia dominated Egypt and their quality in midfield should heavily be credited to the holding midfield pairing of Yuri Gazinsky and Roman Zobnin. If Egypt’s midfield was any problem, Uruguay’s will be more than what Gazinsky has handled thus far and the 28-year-old might just be up for the sternest test of his footballing career.

Gazinsky though, is having a breakout tournament so far, showcasing his prowess in set-pieces as well. European footballing clubs are scouring the market for good holding midfielders and a continued show of form could land the Krasnodar star a move to the bigger leagues.

Prediction

Uruguay 2-2 Russia

This could be where Russia’s defence is put up to the test. Igor Akinfeev is quality at the back, but could have to pick up the ball from the net a couple of times on Monday. Uruguay, on the other hand, have already shown a vulnerability at the back, something Russia should be able to exploit, especially with their attack on song.

Russia have also been the hardest workers on the pitch in the two games so far and should that be the case, they have the ability to take Uruguay by the sword. But, Luis Suarez & co.’s hunger for the top position should see them put up a spirited display.

At the end though, we expect Russia to pick up a point and top Group A on goal difference.