Russia v Saudi Arabia Preview, Stats and Betting Tips, Thursday 14 June, Luzhniki Stadium, Kick off: 16:00
After all the build up and preparations it is finally time for the 2018 World Cup to get underway. As hosts, Russia have the honour of playing the first match. Backed by thousands of fans at the Luzhniki Stadium, the Russia players will be confident of getting a result against Saudi Arabia who are very much the underdogs at 10/1 in places.
However, the Saudis have a very good manager in Juan Antonio Pizzi and some decent attacking players so this may not be as straightforward as the odds suggest. Whoever you’re backing, be sure to check out the latest World Cup Offers and Free Bets to help skew the odds in your favour.
Russia v Saudi Arabia Betting Tips
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Russia v Saudi Arabia Preview
One of the many benefits of being World Cup hosts is the plum draw in position one of Group A. Russia fans will certainly feel very happy about being drawn against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay but make no mistake, the hosts will need to be considerably better than they were two years ago in Euro 2016.
Russia did have some major injury problems to contend with in France but the lacklustre nature of their performances in the Euros was very troubling. In truth, they weren’t too much better during last summer’s Confederations Cup and the lack of recent competitive football has not helped things for their manager, Stanislav Cherchesov.
Saudi Arabia will know all about Russia’s recent problems and cannot help but take heart from their recent battling performances against Italy and Germany in their warm up friendlies. In contrast, Russia were beaten 1-0 by Austria before being held to a 1-1 draw by Turkey.
The 3-0 defeat against Peru will concern Pizzi but that’s the only game in the last five in which Saudi Arabia have failed to score. That tells you a fair deal about where the strengths of this Saudi team lie. Yes, they are lacking experience outside of their home but Pizzi’s current squad are more than decent going forwards and should give Russia plenty to think about.
Coming hot on the heels of the opening ceremony, there is always a lot of nervous tension before the first game of the World Cup. The nerves didn’t stop Brazil from beating Croatia 3-1 in the 2014 opener though, nor did they prevent entertaining matches between South Africa and Mexico in 2010 and Germany against Costa Rica in 2006. Football fans the world over will be hoping for another action packed match on Thursday night. Whatever the result, that’s something that Russia and Saudi Arabia look capable of providing.
Relevant Stats, Injuries and Suspensions
The Russian Football Federation are clearly not overly concerned about the host’s poor recent form or the fact that Russia have fallen at the first hurdle in each of their three previous World Cup appearances. They’ve told Cherchesov that reaching the semi finals should be his target. There is next to no chance of those expectations being met but Russia’s chances improve the better their midfield trio of Alan Dzagoev, Anton Miranchuk and Aleksandr Golovin fire on the big stage.
The big news for Saudi Arabia in the lead up to the World Cup was Pizzi’s decision to omit Nawaf Al-Abed from the final squad. The Saudi manager must hope that other players will stand up and take matches by the scruff of the neck in the way that Al-Abed is capable of. He’ll also need Mohammed Al-Sahlawi to shed his reputation as a player only capable of scoring against poor opposition while the speed and trickery of Levante’s Fahad Al-Muwallad makes him a potential danger.
If history is anything to go by this could be a chastening afternoon for Russia. They lost their only previous encounter against Saudi Arabia 4-2 and they have only won two of their nine World Cup matches since they started playing as Russia.
Russia v Saudi Arabia Tips
Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia are not quite the big underdogs that the bookies’ odds suggest, there is little doubt that Russia deserve to be favourites. It’s just tough to get excited about a general price of 4/9 though.
Both teams to score looks a much more tempting betting option at a generous 31/20 with Ladbrokes. Saudi Arabia will rightly feel as though they have a chance of getting something from this match while Russia’s defence is far from watertight. At the other end, the support of the home crowd should ensure the hosts grab at least one goal.
Another way of profiting from a match that doesn’t go to plan for Russia is backing Saudi Arabia to score the game’s first goal at 13/4 with Coral. The Saudis will be under significantly less pressure than Russia and could utilise that relative freedom to good effect early on.