English fans beaten up in Moscow

Police sources are reporting a number of attacks on English fans overnight ahead of this evening’s crucial Euro 2008 qualifier between England and Russia. Thousands of football fans have gathered in Moscow to watch the event, which decides who makes it to

England is currently five points ahead of Russia in the table with only two matches to go while the Russians have three matches ahead of them. If Russia wins today, it still has a chance to go to Euro 2008. A victory for England would be their pass to Austria and Switzerland.

Fans for both sides have flocked to Moscow. Around 4,500 English fans have come to the Russian capital, while the number of Russians that are due to come to see the match can be as big as 75,000. Both crowds have a reputation for trouble – thus the tight security measures.

The police are determined 
             to prevent any possible clashes
The police are determined to prevent any possible clashes

The match starts at 7 pm local time (3 pm GMT), but the riot police have been gathering around Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium since early morning. They are determined to prevent any possible clashes. Some 5,000 policemen including a crack force of riot police will be guarding the stadium.

Meanwhile, the match has provoked some controversy, as the British media has been speculating that the artificial pitch at the stadium is being used to give the Russian side an unfair advantage in the game. Unlike their Russian competitors, the English team is not accustomed to playing on an artificial pitch.

The coaches of both teams were relaxed over the allegations and say the advantage, if any, will not be that significant.

Elsewhere, Russia took on England in a friendly match between fans of both countries the night before the big game. Russia won that one 7-5.

Meanwhile, former Russian international midfielder Aleksander Mostovoy, who has also played for Celta Vigo in Spain, says it's a hard call to make.

“If I knew what the result of this match would be, I wouldn't go to see it. It looks like no-one can predict anything tonight. The match is really going to be very exciting. Virtually everything's possible,” he said.

Another former Russian international midfielder, Andrey Kanchelskis, who has also played for Manchester United in England, believes the support of Russian fans will help a lot, and it is really important for the team.

“I think the stadium will be full with Russian football fans and if all the 80,000 fans come and root for our team, then their support will help the Russian team from a psychological point of view,” Andrey Kanchelskis said.