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Nov 11, 2021 at 5pm UK
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Preview: Russia vs. Cyprus - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Russia vs. Cyprus - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Russia and Cyprus, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Russia can move a giant step closer to sealing automatic entry to World Cup 2022 when they take on Group H's bottom side Cyprus in their penultimate qualifying match.

Valeri Karpin's side are already assured of a top-two finish, but they will be looking to hold off Croatia to finish top as only one side is guaranteed a place at Qatar 2022.

Match preview

After a poor showing at Euro 2020 when finishing bottom of their group, Russia have had a lot more joy in qualifying for the World Cup, a tournament they hosted three years ago.

'Our Boys', who memorably made it to the quarter-finals on home soil in 2018, know that their destiny remains in their own hands with two rounds of Group H fixtures to play.

Russia have won four qualifiers in a row, keeping a clean sheet in three of those, and have 19 points from their eight games overall.

That places Karpin's side two points clear of Croatia, whom they face in Split on Sunday, making this contest against Cyprus at the Gazprom Arena simply massive.

Should Croatia fail to beat Malta, Russia will be confirmed as group winners before the final game if they beat Cyprus, but the 2018 World Cup runners-up are unlikely to slip up.

Everything points towards a final-day shootout, then, though for that to happen Russia have to win this match with a Cyprus side bottom of the standings with five points.

Nikos Kostenoglou's men did at least manage to snap a four-game losing streak without scoring thanks to a 2-2 draw against Malta last time out.

Cyprus's only victory in qualifying so far came at home to Slovenia in March, and their only focus now is on simply finishing above Malta in the battle to avoid bottom spot.

Russia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Russia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Cyprus World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • D

Cyprus form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • D

Team News

Karpin whittled down an extended squad of 41 players to 29 last week, 25 of whom represent Russian clubs.

All but one player who started the win against Slovenia last time out has been named in the squad, with Daler Kuzyaev the only omission after sustaining an injury.

Anton Zabolotny, a second-half substitute in that most recent Russia win, is a contender to come into the side in attack.

As for Cyprus, they are likely to go with a similar side to the one that started the 2-2 draw with Malta last month.

Fotios Papoulis and Pieros Sotiriou both got off the mark with their first goals this campaign in that four-goal draw and will be looking to build on that here.

Russia possible starting lineup:
Safonov; Sutormin, Diveev, Dzhikiya, Kudryashov; Fomin, Barinov, Zabolotny; Miranchuk, Smolov, Bakaev

Cyprus possible starting lineup:
Michael; Andreou, Sotiriou, Antoniadis; Demetriou, Kyriakou, Kastanos, Ioannou; Loizou, Sotiriou, Papoulis

We say: Russia 3-0 Cyprus

Russia know that a win here may need them requiring just a draw away at Croatia to confirm automatic entry for Qatar 2022 in Sunday's final round of fixtures.

For that to happen the hosts need to slightly improve their goal difference. While they do not tend to score more than twice in a game, we can see that changing here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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