The European Championships start the final round of fixtures tonight, with Group A being the first to find out their fates. Top of the table Russia face bottom of the group Greece with a clash of objectives on the cards. Any result is likely to see the Russians qualify for the first knockout stage – except a 6-0 loss – whilst the Greeks need a win to have any hope of making it out of the first round – with the result in the Poland vs Czech Republic game playing as big a role in 2004 winner’s fate.
The task is a case of making a mountain, an ever bigger mountain. The added pressure for Greece won’t be helped by the fact they are playing a Russian team currently on a 16 match unbeaten run, including a 3-0 win against Italy at the beginning of the month. This is in stark contrast to the Greeks who come into the game having only managed 5 victories in 15 games.
Another concern for Greece is that the Russians are unlikely to come into the game happy just to take qualification. The runner-up of Group A look set to face Germany – as winner of Group B – and this is a fixture that Russia will hope to avoid, a win being the only result which will guarantee finishing top of the group.
In the previous two games Russia have dominated possession, taking 60 % against Poland and 51% against the Czech Republic, but despite having a hold on these games they have allowed 31 attempts on their goal. This is where the Greeks will need their strikers firing on all cylinders, similar to their previous game against the Czechs where they had 4 out of 5 shots on target.
The Greeks will be without first choice keeper after suffering a hamstring injury in the second group fixture and centre back Avram Papadopoulos is also out of the game after getting a serious injury in the same game. The good news for Greece is that Sokratis Papastathopoulos is back after serving a one game suspension for his controversial sending off against Poland on day one.
Russia have a fully fit squad and the only change could see Roman Pavlyuchenko replace Aleksandr Kerzhakov after the former-Tottenham striker impressed in the last two games.
Russia come into the game having only lost once to their opponents, back in 1993, with 4 wins under their belt. The two sides have drawn more times than either have won – cancelling each other out 5 times.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Greece