Russia kick-off their UEFA European Championship 2016 campaign today as Leonid Slutsky’s side face Group B favorites England in Marseille.
Slutsky’s preparations for the tournament have been hit by injuries, with midfielder Igor Denisov joining Yuri Zhirkov, Alan Dzagoev, Denis Cheryshev, and Oleg Kuzmin on the sidelines.
Spartak Moscow’s Denis Glushakov is doubtful for the game and faces a late fitness test, while Krasnodar’s Dmitri Torbinski has been unable to train this week and could miss out.
Paval Mamaev is in line to replace the injured Denisov, but the Krasnodar midfielder says Slutsky has “not detailed for certain anything about central midfield.”
Zenit’s Artur Yusupov, who was on holiday in the same Monaco hotel as the Russian team, was called up to replace Denisov but may not be ready to face England.
“I was planning to fly back to Moscow (on Monday),” Yusupov told UEFA.com.
“I didn’t even have my football boots with me and none of my kit. I had to borrow from (Russia midfielder) Roman Neustadter.
“After being on holiday for 14 days, of course it is difficult to get down to work. I don’t really know myself what state I will be in.”
By contrast, England arrive in France as the only team win all of their qualifying fixtures, and have since claimed victories over Turkey, Australia and Portugal in their warm-up matches.
Questions over Roy Hodgson’s team selection have dominated the pre-match build-up, with captain Wayne Rooney’s role in the team coming under increased scrutiny.
Slutsky has claimed Rooney is “not the player that he was”, but the Manchester United striker says he is looking forward to the tournament.
“You can sense the excitement around the team and around the team hotel, and I think you sense that excitement around the country,” he said.
“Certainly the fans are doing that, but the players are doing exactly the same.
“We’re the ones going out on the pitch and we’re the ones who have to go and do it, so hopefully we can and we’ll give everyone good memories.”
Rooney faces competition for a starting role from Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, although newspaper reports have suggested the latter is likely to start on the bench.
England defenders Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Ryan Bertrand all suffered knocks during training earlier in the week, but are expected to be available for selection.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding England’s line-up, Hodgson believes England have an excellent chance of making progress.
“There is definitely a selection headache in terms of so many good players who could quite easily command a place in the team,” he said.
“I’m pleased with the headaches and that having gone through three matches and some intensive training we still have all our players available.
“We know we have a team who, if they perform to the level we think they can perform to, will make it difficult for our opponents.
“We have a lot of respect for Russia. We think they are a very good team, a very experienced team with lot of players who’ve played together a long time at CSKA and Zenit.”
With England’s starting eleven still unknown, Stutsky plans to announce the Russian line-up as late as possible.
“There is always a debate between youth and experience,” said Slutsky.
“It is impossible to say which is better and we have had this discussion on a number of occasions. We will also have a lot of players who will be experiencing a major tournament for the first time.
“I don’t think it would be correct to say whether this is the most important match of my career. I know there is a lot of responsibility with the whole country watching and I would like us to play good football tomorrow and for them to get the result they want.”
Artem Dzyuba is expected to get the nod in attack after bagging eight goals during Russia’s qualifying campaign.
The Zenit marksman is hoping to have a big impact on this year’s tournament.
“Four years ago, before Euro 2012, which I eventually did not play in, I called myself a lion cub, but now I am a lion,” he said.
The two countries have met just twice in the last decade during the Euro 2008 qualifiers, with England winning 3-0 at Wembley, while Russia triumphed 2-1 in Moscow in a game famous for a misplaced Gary Neville back-pass that led to an own goal and England failing to qualify for the tournament.
Russia, as the Soviet Union, won the first ever European Championships in 1960 beating Yugoslavia 2-1 after extra-time in the final.
They have lost their three subsequent Euro finals in 1964, 1972 and 1988.
England have never progressed beyond the semi-finals at the Euros.
The Three Lions finished third in 1968 and were knocked out in the last four by Germany in 1996.
England have been eliminated on penalties in three of their last four Euros in 1996, 2004 and 2012.
Expected Starting Lineups:
England: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli; Lallana, Rooney, Sterling; Kane.
Russia: Akinfeev; Smolnikov, V Berezutski, Ignashevich, Schennikov; Golovin, Neustadter; Smolov, Shatov, Kokorin; Dzyuba.