The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday! Hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
It may not be the most glamorous opening match in World Cup history, but it is likely to be an entertaining one.
The two sides were drawn together in Group A, alongside Egypt and Uruguay who play each other on Friday.
Russia’s lead-up to the World Cup has hardly been inspiring. Three of their four matches this year have ended in defeat.
As hosts, Russia did not have to play any qualifying matches for the tournament and were automatically seeded in Pot 1 for the draw.
Russia team news vs Saudi Arabia
First-choice defenders Dmitri Kombarov and Viktor Vasin both miss the tournament through injury, meaning the Russians are likely to field a flat back four, rather than a central back three.
38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich – the second-oldest outfielder at the World Cup – is likely to start at the heart of Russia’s defense. Mario Fernandes and Igor Smolnikov will battle it out for the starting right-back berth.
Former Chelsea midfielder Yury Zhirkov is back in training and is expected to start out on the left.
Alan Dzagoev provides an alternative attacking option for head coach Stanislav Cherchesov.
Saudi Arabia team news vs Russia
Saudi Arabia will be without star player Nawaf Al-Abed who misses out through injury. Al-Abed was Saudi’s top scorer in qualifying with 5 goals.
Likely to play on the break, Salem Al-Dawsari and Fahad Al-Mullawad look to be Saudi Arabia’s pacy outlets.
Captain Osama Hawsawi and Taisir Al-Jassim provide experience in Juan Antonio Pizzi’s squad. The pair have 267 international caps between them.
Russia Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-2-1):
Akinfeev; Granat, Kutepov, Ignashevic; Samedov, Golovin, Zobnin, Zhirkov; Miranchuk, Dzagoev; Smolov
Saudi Arabia Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Al-Mayouf; Al-Shahrani, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Harbi; Otayf, Al-Jassim; Al-Muwallad, Al-Shehri, Al-Dawsari; Al-Sahlawi