Getty Images

2018 World Cup team preview: Russia

1 Comment

Getting to know Russia: The Russian national team have never got out of the group stage of a World Cup and have one won two of their previous nine games at the 1994, 2002 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

When they competed as the Soviet Union they had better success, with a golden era from 1958-70 which saw them reach the quarterfinals three times and they finished fourth in 1966. In recent times they reached the semifinals of the 2008 European championships as they likes of Andrey Arshavin starred. For more history on Russia, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news


What group are they in? Russia are in Group A alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. The hosts have been handed a pretty manageable group as they aim to make the Round of 16. Uruguay are the favorites but with Saudi Arabia the underdogs and Egypt relying heavily on Mohamed Salah rushing back to fitness, the hosts will fancy their chances, especially if they win against Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener. 


Game schedule – Group A – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here 

Thursday, June 14: Russia v Saudi Arabia, Moscow (Luzhniki) 11am ET
Tuesday, June 19: Russia v Egypt, St Petersburg 2pm ET
Monday, June 25: Uruguay v Russia, Samara 10am ET


Projected lineup (4-5-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Akinfeev —–

— Fernandes — Ignashevich — Granat — Kudryashov —-

—- Samedov —-Kuzyaev—- Golovin —- Zobnin —- Zhirkov —-

—– Smolov —–


Star player: Aleksandr Golovin – The central midfielder is a star for CSKA Moscow at the age of 22 and he is Russia’s greatest hope. A silky playmaker who loves to get on the ball and dictate Russia’s tempo of play, Golokin has scored twice in 18 appearances for his country but is coming off his best goalscoring season for CSKA as he struck seven times (including a memorable free kick at Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League) in 2017/18. Golokin is the posterboy of Russian soccer and plenty of pressure will be on his shoulders.

Getty Images

Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov – An experienced manager who played for Russia at both the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, as well as Euro 1996, Cherchesov is a cautious coach. He has won five of his 19 games in charge of Russia after he signed a contract in 2016 through the World Cup. He believes in a team-first approach and has largely kept the same group of players together over the past two years. Cherchesov is a lively character who will try to inspire his squad to feed off the home support and seize the moment. He knows they have no real superstars but will be hoping a strong defensive unit will see them out of the group.


Secret weapon: Russia have something nobody else at the tournament will have: home support. Yes, it’s a cliche, but we all now how big of an impact the home fans can have at a tournament. Look at South Korea making it all the way to the semifinals in 2002, Italy making the final in 1990, England winning it all in 1966 and France also winning the trophy on home soil in 1998. Russia aren’t going to win this World Cup but their fans can carry them into the knockout rounds if they can grab four points in their games against Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Then, who knows? 


Prediction: Russia will try and keep things tight and have some clinical finishers in Dyzuba and Smolov, while Golovin will be their main hope in midfield. The hosts are up against it to make it out of the group but the biggest hope they can have is that Egypt’s superstar Mohamed Salah isn’t fit enough to make a huge impact and Russia can then sneak through behind Uruguay to make the last 16. Facing either Portugal or Russia in the last 16 means they will likely exit in the first knockout round, but getting out of the group stage would be a huge success for a team ranked 66th in the latest FIFA rankings.  

Premier League games in March to be rearranged

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The FA Cup results over the week mean that six Premier League games will be moved from Matchweek 31.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

With Brighton, Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Watford and Wolves all confirmed quarterfinalists in the FA Cup and one of Chelsea or Man United also going through, there are plenty of games which cannot be played on the weekend of March 16.

The Manchester derby between Man City and Man United is the most notable game that will have to be switched, while Spurs’ home game against Crystal Palace (which could have been their first game at the new White Hart Lane) now has to be rearranged.

New dates will have to be arranged and that isn’t easy at this time of the season as UEFA regulations state that Premier League games cannot be played on the same night as Champions League or Europa League matches.

Below is a list of the PL games impacted, and their date is TBA.

Expect a few of these games to take place in midweek in late April or May and they could be pivotal in the relegation, top four and title battles.


Premier League fixtures to be rearranged
Brighton v. Cardiff
Brighton v. Chelsea
Man United v. Man City
Tottenham Hotspur v. Crystal Palace
Watford v. Southampton
Wolves v. Arsenal

Nani arrives in MLS, signs for Orlando City

AP
Leave a comment

Nani has arrived in Major League Soccer.

Orlando City SC announced the Portugal national team star has arrived from Sporting Lisbon on a free transfer and has signed a three-year deal as a Designated Player.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Nani, 32, will be a huge draw for Orlando as they look to get things back on track after a rough few years in MLS.

Speaking about Nani’s move to MLS with Orlando, EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi was delighted to welcome the experienced attacker.

“This is an exciting day for our organization,” said O. “Nani brings tremendous experience to our roster. He’s a dynamic winger with quality abilities to move and cross the ball, impact games and lead the offensive play.”

The former Manchester United, Fenerbache, Valencia and Lazio winger won the 2016 European Championships with Portugal and appeared at the 2014 World Cup for his national team. USMNT fans will remember his goal against the U.S. in Manaus…

Nani has scored 24 goals in 112 games for Portugal and although his arrival isn’t as big as Kaka leading Orlando in their first three seasons as a franchise, he is a huge get for a team which hasn’t made the playoffs in their four MLS campaigns and finished way off the pace in each of the last two years in the Eastern Conference.

Manager James O’Connor has a mix of youth and experience in this Orlando squad but he must make a fast start in 2019 after winning just two of his 17 games after arriving midway through the 2018 campaign.

Orlando need a total rebuild and Nani’s arrival should shake things up a little, even if a veteran winger may only solve a few of their problems for a few seasons.

New development in David de Gea contract situation

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It seemed like David De Gea‘s future at Manchester United was up in the air, with the Spanish goalkeeper having just over a year left on his current deal and some reports suggesting an impasse had been reached.

But it appears that United are willing to pull out all of the stops to keep DDG around.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

De Gea, 28, has been named United’s Player of the Season in four of the last five campaigns and since Sir Alex Ferguson retired he has bailed United out of sticky situations time and time again.

It has been reported that De Gea would be handed a new five-year deal which would see him pick up the largest basic salary of any current player in the Premier League, and therefore any PL player in history.

Our colleagues from Sky Sports News in the UK have more on the situation regarding De Gea:

United have been surprised at reports they rejected wage demands of £350,000-per-week, as Sky Sports News understands they would be prepared to pay that amount, but agent demands may be driving the price higher still.

In the past few months Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay have all signed new contracts with the Red Devils and Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors in a call last week that he wants to “finish off the final few as rapidly as we possibly can.”

It is expected De Gea’s deal is at the top of that list, with Ander Herrera and Juan Mata (both out of contract this summer) the other top priorities to tie down to new deals.

De Gea’s importance to United is clear and just as star strikers and attacking players are rewarded handsomely, the value of having a star goalkeeper should not be understated. Even if, historically, they haven’t earned quite as much as outfield players.

The Spaniard has played 347 times for United in all competitions since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.

After almost leaving in the summer of 2015 (United’s staff must do a daily salute to Real Madrid’s dodgy fax machine which scuppered the deal at  the eleventh hour) it is clear he is their most important player. Wonderful displays recently against Tottenham Hotspur and at Arsenal have proven De Gea’s worth, if anyone ever doubted it.

Lovren, Firmino huge doubts for Liverpool v. Bayern Munich

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool could be seriously shorthanded for their massive UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg against Bayern Munich at Anfield on Tuesday.

[ MORE: PL or UCL priority for LFC? ]

Dejan Lovren and Roberto Firmino did not take part in Liverpool’s final training session before their game against Bayern to give Jurgen Klopp more selection worries.

It has been reported that Firmino has a virus, while Lovren has been struggling with a hamstring problem and was always going to be a last-minute decision for the clash against the German giants.

Fabinho now looks certain to start alongside Joel Matip in central defense for Liverpool on Tuesday, as Virgil Van Dijk is suspended and Joe Gomez is injured.

As for up top, the likes of Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge could be placed in Firmino’s spot but it is likely Xherdan Shaqiri (if he is fully fit) will come into the team and Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane will switch to a central position in the front three.

Either way, not ideal for Liverpool as they have a huge week with this game against Bayern followed by a massive Premier League game at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

In terms of Bayern’s injury news, Kingsley Coman has recovered from a knock in Friday’s win at Augsburg but Jerome Boateng is out through illness. Arjen Robben is recovering from injury and did not travel with the squad, while Franck Ribery will arrive in Liverpool separate from the team after becoming a father late on Sunday.