Azerbaijan vs. Russia, Tofik Bakhramov in Baku
Tuesday 15 October, 4 p.m. (BST)
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Russia need just one point to guarantee their place at next summer's World Cup. Fabio Capello's side currently sit three points ahead of Portugal in Group F and have a play-off place to fall back on at the very least.
A solid performance is needed to overpower Azerbaijan. Portugal's fixture against Luxembourg is as close to a given as international football ever produces, especially when you consider the minnows have just one win in nine qualifying matches this campaign.
The trip to Baku isn't a gruelling one for the Russians. With Baku sitting just south of Russia's east border, Capello's team will be well-rested and ready to outplay their opponents. The teams met almost a year to the day on Oct. 16, 2012, but as the Moscow crowd found out, Azerbaijan are capable of making a nuisance of themselves.
A late Roman Shirokov penalty notched a 1-0 victory in a match that saw the visitors fall just short of an excellent draw. Azerbaijan's recent 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland produced their only three points of the qualifying campaign, as Berti Vogts' team continue to stutter with draws.
Russia haven't been quite as accommodating. Capello's team have 19 goals to their name, including four against Luxembourg last time out. The 1-0 win over Portugal at the Luzhniki Stadium remains their most important victory in the group, although Helder Postiga's only goal in the return fixture ensures a few nerves will still be jangling.
The visitors have produced goalscorers from all over the pitch during qualifying and have enough attacking resources to trouble the best. Alexander Samedov, Victor Faizulin, Denis Glushakov and Alexander Kerzhakov netted against Luxembourg, highlighting Capello's intense attacking style rather succinctly.
Much of the onus will fall on Kerzhakov, who has five goals in qualifying, per FIFA. When you consider this is just one goal fewer than Azerbaijan have scored throughout the competition as a whole, the difficulty of the hosts' task begins to come clear.
Alexander Kokorin also has four goals for the Russians who have the confidence to easily overturn their opponents. While Azerbaijan have played well to secure a quintet of draws throughout the competition, Vogts' side is just missing the attacking prowess to test tougher teams across 90 minutes.
They will have to play out of their skin to upset a visiting team who knows a loss will result in an irritating play-off place.
Who will win this match?
While Israel did the Russians a major favour when equalising in the 85th minute against Portugal, Paulo Bento's team will not slip up against Luxembourg. Portugal have more than enough firepower to make light work of a team that has five losses to its name during this process.
Can Azerbaijan halt their neighbour's progress to Brazil? A performance akin to their display in Moscow will certainly test Capello's team more vigorously than they'd like. Expect tough tackles, plenty of opportunities on goal, and above all, lots of drama.