Russia vs Saudi Arabia: World Cup hosts to get off to winning start

Hosts to claim win in opening match of Russia 2018
Hosts Russia set to open 2018 World Cup (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia vs Saudi Arabia Preview & Betting Tips


Russia and Saudi Arabia sqaure off at the Luzhniki Stadium in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Both teams have been in bad form heading into the tournament and will be looking to begin their campaign with a win.

Russia


The Russians finally ended a run of three straight defeats when they held Turkey to a draw last Friday. They took a first half lead through Alexander Samedov, before being pegged back by Yunus Malli in the second period.

The World Cup hosts have not had the best build up to the tournament, having failed to win in their last seven matches. Four of those matches have ended in defeat, while they have also failed to score in three outings in that run.

Manager Stanislav Cherchesov has stuck with a similar starting line up for Russia’s last two friendlies as he continues to try out his first 11 for the opening match at the global showpiece. Fyodor Smolov is likely to lead the line on Thursday, with Alan Dzagoev and Alexander Golovin either side of him.

Igor Smolinkov, Sergei Ignashevich and Ilja Kutepov are expected to form a back three for the Russians, with Samedov and Yuri Zhirkov also fit to start. But Alexandr Erokhin, Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba may have to settle for a place on the bench.

Saudi Arabia


The Green Falcons suffered a 2-1 defeat to defending champions Germany in their final friendly match before the World Cup. They conceded two goals in the first half, before Taisir Al Jassim pulled one back six minutes from time.

Saudi Arabia are not heading to Russia in good form, having lost their last three matches in preparation for the tournament. They have claimed only two wins in their last eight matches, with five of those outings ending in defeats.

Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi is expected to retain much of the same team that faced Germany last Friday. Fahad Al Muwallad should start as the lone man in attack, with Al Jassim, Yahya Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari lining up in midfield. 

Osama Hawsawi and Omar Hawsawi will line up in defence, while Mohammad Sahlawi is pushing for a start after coming off the bench last Friday.

Match-Up


Russia and Saudi Arabia have had only one previous meeting, with the Europeans running out 2-1 winners in a friendly back in 1993.

Confidence is low in both camps at the moment, with the two teams struggling for wins in their recent outings. Russia have the slight edge in quality and with the backing of the home crowd, should get the job done on the opening day.

Key Statistics


  • Russia are unbeaten in 5 of their last 8 home matches (All Competitions).
  • Saudi Arabia have lost 8 of their last 10 matches (World Cup).
  • Saudi Arabia have conceded 2 or more goals in their last 4 away matches (All Competitions).

Verdict


Both teams haven’t had the best preparation for the World Cup, but the Russians should just edge this one as they look to open their campaign on home soil with a win. 

Saudi Arabia’s recent bad run at the World Cup seems set to continue.

Best Bet: Russia to win @ 1.50
Correct Score Bet: Russia to win 2-0 @ 5.70
Eric Smith 13 June 2018

2018 FIFA World Cup Previews & Tips