Spain v Russia preview

Last updated : 12 June 2004 By Sandyhills Bear

Player for player they have one of the most talented squads at the tournament but whether they can unite and produce as a team remains to be seen. Basque coach Inaki Saez has already named his starting 11 for their fixture with Russia;

Iker Casillas; Carles Puyol, Carlos Marchena, Ivan Helguera, Raul Bravo; Joseba Etxeberria, David Albelda, Ruben Baraja, Vicente; Fernando Morientes, Raul.

They'll line up in a 4-4-2 fomation and the 3 Valencia midfielders Albelda, Baraja and Vicente will look to shine on the international stage after winning the La Liga title.

Helguera and Puyol will organise at the back and Raul will play just off Morientes up front, a combination which worked so well at Real Madrid a few seasons back.

Russia come into the tournament under a bit of a cloud; they defeated Wales in the play-off. Midfielder Yegor Titov failed a drugs test after the first leg in Moscow where he was an unused substitute although he did play in the 2nd leg 4 days later. The player was banned for 12 months and the Welsh wanted the Russians booted out of the competition, which UEFA rejected.

Now the Russians find themselves in a tough group and with captain Viktor Onopko ruled out courtesy of a knee problem (sound familar) they don't have their problems to seek. They will look to midfielders Alexei Smertin and Alexander Mostovoi and striker Dmitry Loskov to produce although they look to be really up against it.

Also in their squad is Rolan Gusev, who scored in both legs for Dynamo Moscow against Rangers in 2001.

Spain really should be too strong for the Russians in this one.

Sandyhills Bear