Despite the high volume of frail footballers included in England’s squad for Euro 2016, it’s Russia who are feeling the bite of injuries ahead of their first match of the tournament.
Captain and midfield enforcer Igor Denisov was forced out of action entirely after tearing a thigh muscle during his country’s 1-1 friendly draw with Serbia, meaning he joins compatriots Alan Dzagoev, Yuri Zhirkov and Denis Cheryshev in the sick bay.
All four would’ve been in contention to start against the Three Lions, let alone make the squad, but Leonid Slutsky will have to cope without these key players.
Taking the place of Denisov in the 23 is Artur Yusupov, who was finishing a two-week vacation at the same Monaco resort in which the Russians were staying. With no boots, kit and carrying a fortnight’s worth of holiday weight, it appears his inclusion is borne more out of proximity than performance.
Meanwhile, three of the already-decimated squad – evergreen defender Vasili Berezutski, Dmitri Torbinski and Denis Glushakov – have sat out recent training sessions with knocks.
It’s fair to say preparations have not been ideal for the team deemed most likely to deny England top spot in Group B, heaping value on the not too shabby 9/10 about a vital Three Lions victory.
Win, Lose or Draw?
Form and fortune appear to be stacked in favour of Roy Hodgson’s men.
It’s rumoured he’ll select Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana on the flanks either side of Harry Kane, with skipper Wayne Rooney deployed in a midfield berth.
The system is geared to scoring goals, but the dangers of overexposure at the opposite end of the pitch this adventurousness will bring about have been ruminated upon at length.
With only three centre-backs in the ranks, Hodgson’s attacking inclinations are plain to see, but just two goals conceded across three pre-tournament friendlies – two of which were against talented Turkish and Portuguese outfits – suggests the backline is sturdy enough to withstand the advancements of a depleted Russia.
Slutsky’s side are in awful form, losing three and drawing one of their last five fixtures, with the solitary victory in this spell coming against a Lithuania team whom it might’ve been harder to lose to than to beat.
They’ve leaked ten goals across this spell, with each of France, Croatia and the Czech Republic putting at least two past their unstable backline.
Having notched five themselves over the timeframe in question, they might cause England a few problems, but apply some pressure to Russia’s porcelain rearguard and it’ll soon crack.
Recommended bet: England to win and both teams to score @ 7/2
If the aforementioned wager is to land, the game has to cross the three-goal threshold.
This has been the minimum number notched in four of Russia’s last five matches, while the only spare game in the sequence ended 1-1. The same percentage of England’s previous quintet contained at least three strikes, with the remaining fixture ending 1-0.
Recommended bet: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/4
Who’s going to score?
It’s fair to say Jamie Vardy didn’t have his best game in an England shirt against Portugal and widespread reports indicate he’ll pay for that performance with his starting place against Russia.
But even as a substitute, he can’t be ruled out of the goalscoring stakes, having bagged on three of his previous four international appearances.
Of the ten goals the Russians have shipped in their last five outings, four of these came in the final 15 minutes of matches, making the Leicester City sharpshooter an excellent any time goalscorer punt.
Recommended bet: Vardy to score last @ 11/2
Russia’s last five outings have contained as many goals in the final 15 minutes, while England fans have seen the net bulge four times in the same period of their last five fixtures.
A late goal looks likely and a decent profit can be turned backing one to be scored.
Recommended bet: Over 0.5 goals between 75:01 and Full Time @ 11/10