Russia v Saudi Arabia Predictions, Betting Tips and Previews

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Stadion Luzhniki - World Cup Group A

The World Cup gets under way on Thursday as the hosts kick off against the minnows of the competition, Saudi Arabia. Stanislav Cherchesov's team are in fact the only side ranked lower in the Fifa ratings, although this is largely down to their non-participation in qualifiers.

Previous Meetings

The two sides have never met in international football, with Saudi Arabia having missed the last two World Cups.

Team News

Cherchesov has a number of decisions to make, especially at full-back with Figueira Fernandes pushing for a start ahead of Smolnikov. Elsewhere on the pitch, former Chelsea utility man Yuri Zhirkov is likely to start in midfield, potentially alongside wonder-kid, Alexandr Golovin.

Juan Pizzi has also yet to settle on a preferred starting XI, having experimented frequently in the recent warm-up friendlies. With Russia his side's best chance of a win, the former Argentinian striker will be keen to start the competition fast, with Mohammad Al-Sahlawi certain to start up front.

Russia v Saudi Arabia Preview and Predictions

Hardly the most compelling match to start the long-awaited start of the World Cup, Russia v Saudi Arabia could likely be decisive as to who progresses in Group A. Despite being the two worst teams in the competition, their respective manager's will know that three points here will put them in a strong position when facing the, potentially Mohammed Salah-less, Egypt.

However, neither Russia nor Saudi Arabia has particularly impressed over the past few weeks, with the hosts having gone 11 games without a win in their preparations for the World Cup. Likewise, Pizzi's men lost their last three friendlies, despite putting in solid performances against both Germany and Italy.

The two managers each have aces up their respective sleeves, with Al-Sahlawi having lit up the qualifiers, scoring the joint-most goals with 16. Following a 10 goal season for Al Nassr, the 31 year old forward is so vital to the clubs chances that he was rested against Germany, to ensure his fitness for Thursday's game.

Cherchesov is also able to boast of a jewel in his squad, with Fedor Smolov having won the Russia footballer of the year award for the last two years, scoring 14 goals in his last campaign. An attacking midfielder, Smolov is the sides creative fulcrum and will be pivotal to their chances. Thursday's game could well be decided by one of their two stars.

Recommended Bets

Smolov to score anytime at 3/1

A strong performance by the midfielder could spur Russia on to a win.

Under 2.5 goals scored at 5/4

Neither side is in great form and may struggle with creativity.