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23 Jun 2018

World Cup 2018: Uruguay vs Russia - Lineups, Preview & Prediction

World Cup 2018: Uruguay vs Russia - Lineups, Preview &
Prediction

Uruguay and Russia lock horns in Samara in a fight for top spot in Group A.

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1500 BST, Monday 25 June, Samara Arena (Samara), ITV

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Last Time Out

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Uruguay Lineup

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Russia Lineup

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Key Battle: Denis Cheryshev (Russia) vs Diego Godin (Uruguay)

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 Talking Points

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Prediction: Uruguay 2-1 Russia

1500 BST, Monday 25 June, Samara Arena (Samara), ITV

Hosts Russia and South American heavyweights Uruguay can enter the final round of games knowing their spots in the last-16 are already confirmed. Both sides won their first two fixtures against Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but there is still the small matter of top spot to be decided. 

Russia have surprised the footballing world with their impressive performances in their opening two games, scoring eight goals and conceding only one.

Backed by a buoyant, expectant and raucous home crowd, the Russians will hope that they can carry their form into this final fixture, and claim an unlikely scalp.

REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

The Uruguayans, though, have been slightly less convincing. Having narrowly edged past a then-Mohamed Salah-less Egypt - courtesy of a late Jose Gimenez header - and a lone Luis Suarez goal the difference against the Saudis, Uruguay will have seen the group stages playing out a little differently.

On paper, the rewards of finishing in top spot would normally be a slightly easier encounter in the first knockout stage, though a probable meeting with either Spain or Portugal may not seem overly appetising.

Last Time Out

Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia

La Celeste headed into their second game of the campaign off the back of a narrow win against Egypt in their opener.

Having been thrashed 5-0 by hosts Russia in the first game of the tournament, many predicted a similar fate for the Saudis when they faced, arguably, a stronger side. The defeat was harsh on the Arab nation, though, after a largely improved performance this time around.

The Green Falcons enjoyed more of the ball than their South American opponents and were defensively much tighter.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

A momentary lapse from goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais ultimately cost his side as his misjudgement allowed Suarez to score on his 100th international appearance. 

At 31, the Barcelona forward is heading towards the back end of his career, though his movement and unpredictability is still a handful for defences.

Uruguay on the whole, though, were poor by their usually high standards, and they will have to be much more fluid when they come up against stronger opposition if they are to make any headway at this World Cup.

Russia 3-1 Egypt

The hosts' fine start to their home tournament continued with a comfortable win over an Egypt side that featured an evidently not-yet-ready Salah.

After smashing five past the Saudis in their opener, many wondered how their form would hold out against a progressively stronger opposition.

The game exploded into life after a dull first period, and it took all of two minutes after the restart for the Russians to get themselves ahead.

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

A questionable punch from goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy barely cleared his penalty area before captain Ahmed Fathy bizarrely turned the ball into his net from the resulting cross.

A goal was exactly what the game needed, and it didn't take long for Russia to double their lead. Denis Cheryshev took advantage of some weak defending before Artem Dzyuba's mazy run and neat finish made it three. 

The Egyptians eventually got themselves sorted at the back, but a Salah penalty 20 minutes from time was merely a consolation.

Uruguay Lineup

Suarez and strike partner Edinson Cavani have yet to fill their potential at this World Cup, but the pair always offer a threat when going forward.

Carlos Sanchez has impressed in midfield in the two previous fixtures and has linked up well with Suarez - he should keep his place.

Captain Diego Godin and partner Gimenez have been solid in the backline, and though rarely tested, their defence has yet to be breached. 

Russia Lineup

Denis Cheryshev has been in searing form since getting his chance after coming on as an early substitute in the opener, and will hope to keep his spot.

Veteran pair Yuri Zhirkov and Sergei Ignashevich have made strides in answering critics over their age and ability to keep up with play as the left side of Russia's defence remains solid.

Artem Dzyuba's fine solo goal against Egypt should keep him in the running to start up front again for the hosts.

Key Battle: Denis Cheryshev (Russia) vs Diego Godin (Uruguay)

While Cheryshev isn't deployed as an out-and-out striker in his side's recent fixtures, his ability to find space and be in the right place at the right time has been the key to his recent streak of goals.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Godin may not face Cheryshev directly often over the course of the 90 minutes, but it will be his responsibility to organise his backline well enough to prevent the confidence-filled midfielder from being able to drift into dangerous positions.

Guillermo Varela's hand may be full on the right side of defence, and he'll need support from Carlos Sanchez whenever Russia get forward in numbers.

Talking Points

Can Russia complete the hat trick?

So far, so good for the host nation. Russia's early performances have surprised many, and while the likes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt didn't offer as much resistance as most expected, their approach to games has been impressive. 

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Stanislav Cherchesov has his side playing with belief and confidence, and they're not shy in going forward and taking control of games.

This game will be their hardest test yet, with Godin and Gimenez doing their utmost to protect goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, and scoring goals will be difficult for the hosts.

Uruguay need to click

Laboured, lethargic performances in their first two outings have left many questioning the energy and fight in this Uruguay side.

Although they are yet to concede, they have also been unconvincing in an attacking area in which they usually impress. Cavani and Suarez, though the latter is off the mark, have yet to get going as a partnership, something which Uruguay's success depends so heavily on.

 REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The link up play through the midfield isn't as slick and insightful as what we're used to seeing, and their lack of chance creation is making them struggle. If they're to get past this Russia side, they must gel properly, and fast. 

Prediction: Uruguay 2-1 Russia

The rewards for winning Group A probably aren't as great as they are for teams in other groups, as it sets up a difficult meeting with Spain or Portugal. With Cristiano Ronaldo in such hot form, and with Spain yet to rev their engine, a fixture with either side won't be desirable. 

That being said, the pride of topping the group should be enough to get both sides going. If the Russians were to complete their hat trick of wins, it will leave many wondering just how far they can make it this summer.

Uruguay know they need to get up to speed sooner rather than later as tougher challenges lie ahead, and it may just about come in time for this one. 2-1.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 8 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.