Saint Petersburg, June 18 (IANS) Hosts Russia will be eyeing to seal their berth for the knockout stage when they face Egypt, who will be bolstered by the return of star forward Mohamed Salah, in their second Group A game here on Tuesday.
Russia will be high on confidence after hammering Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game in Moscow on Thursday. Egypt on the other hand suffered a 0-1 loss to Uruguay in the absence of Salah on Friday.
However, Salah has been declared 100 per cent fit by Egypt’s team doctor which will be a major relief for the team management.
Russia currently top Group A charts on goal difference ahead of Uruguay while Egypt are placed third and another defeat for the North African nation will force them for an early exit from the mega event.
Egypt are strengthened by Salah’s return while Russia will be weakened by the absence of creative midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who suffered injury in the opening game.
“Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff,” Egypt’s team manager Ihab Leheta was quoted as saying by FIFA.com.
“Russia’s game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay,” he added.
Denis Cheryshev, who was Russia’s hero against Saudi Arabia after scoring twice, however feels even if Salah misses Tuesday’s game, their task will not be easy.
“If he (Salah) is not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all,” Cheryshev was quoted as saying by FIFA.com.
The left winger felt that Salah’s inclusion in Egypt’s playing XI will make the issue interesting.
“If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He’s one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win,” Cheryshev added.
Apart from Cheryshev, Roman Zobnin, Aleksandr Golovin, Yury Zhirkov, Alexander Samedov will comprise the midfield behind Fedor Smolov. The dynamic midfield has shown in the previous game that it can initiate attacks from any part of the pitch.
Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov and Sergey Ignashevich will form the defence.
Russia have to put the result against Saudi Arabia behind them as the game against Egypt will a totally different story.
With or without Salah, the hosts will have to fight hard to register another victory.
A win or a draw against Russia will keep Egypt’s hopes alive ahead of its final group game against Saudi Arabia on June 25.
Overall, all eyes will be on Salah, who almost single-handedly led Egypt to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.
The 26-year-old, who plays as a forward for English club Liverpool, netted five of the team’s eight qualifying goals, including an injury-time penalty against Republic of Congo that ensured qualification got Egypt.
Salah will share the attack with Marwan Mohsen and Amr Warda, while the midfield of Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny and Abdalla Said will be tasked with landing balance.
The backline of Ali Gabr, Ahmed Hegazi, Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdel-Shafy had nearly stopped Uruguay before a late set-piece goal blew them away. The four players will have to block the Russian incisive attacks.