Can Russia qualify from their group in EURO 2016?
After a shaky start to qualification that saw coach Fabio Capello leave, CSKA Moscow manager Leonid Slutsky took charge of the national team on a part-time basis while still managing his club. Four straight victories secured qualification, but it remains to be seen whether the changes in playing style will help or hurt Russia in the tournament.
Slutsky went with the ageing but reliable combination of CSKA defenders Aleksei Berezutsky, aged 33 and Sergei Ignashevich, 36, at the back while favoring Zenit’s Artyom Dzyuba, a 6ft 5in striker, up front. The changes helped Russia qualify, but will they help them win against better sides in France?
We look at Russia's three opponents in Group B and their chances of securing a win (or more).
England maintained a 100 percent record in qualification, and after a shocking performance in the 2014 World Cup, the team gave plenty of chances to youngsters during their qualification campaign. However, problems persist in midfield where the ageing Michael Carrick will be relied upon to offer balance. Up front, while captain Wayne Rooney is in the worst form of his career he is considered undroppable.
Russia play England in their first game on June 11. England have become notoriously bad 'starters' in international tournaments, and if Russia play a tight game that doesn't overexpose their defense against the likes of Sterling, Chamberlain and Kane - then they have a good chance of getting a draw, or even a win.
Russia's second opponents are Slovakia, with the game being played in Lille on June 15.
Slovakia is an under-rated, counterattacking side that will do well against the 'stronger' teams like England and Wales. However, with Russia likely to play in a similar style, this will be a game where we will see a more proactive Slovakia. They have pace on the flanks and Hamsik in midfield to create goals, but no outstanding goal scorer. If Russia's defense can hold firm they should be able to score against Slovakia.
Russia's last match will be against Wales in Toulouse on June 20, and it will be their toughest task to date. While England and Slovakia lack a world class attacking player, Wales have Gareth Bale. Wales' entire system is based on getting Bale into goal scoring positions and should Bale stay fit for (and during) the tournament, there is every chance that he will be too much for the Russian defenders to cope with.
Four points from three games would be enough to see Russia qualify for the knockout stages.