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Spaniards on their mark

Russia’s chances of upsetting highly-fancied Spain in their Euro 2008 opener on Tuesday will be undermined by the absence of playmaker Andrei Arshavin and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak.
By Simon Baskett | Reuters, Neustift, Austria
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 09:39 PM IST

Russia’s chances of upsetting highly-fancied Spain in their Euro 2008 opener on Tuesday will be undermined by the absence of playmaker Andrei Arshavin and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak.

Arshavin is suspended while Pogrebnyak has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury.

Spain, on a 16-match unbeaten run, are favourites to win the Group D tie in Innsbruck but Andres Iniesta said the Russian setbacks would make little difference to his team.

“I don’t think we should change our tactics because of what has happened,” the midfielder told a news conference. “We need to concentrate on ourselves and if we do that and play the way we can we’ll win.

“They have lost two important players but Russia’s strong point is their whole team not any particular individuals.”

Spain topped their qualifying group before notching morale-boosting wins over world champions Italy and beaten finalists France in their Euro 2008 buildup.

But despite having Fernando Torres, David Villa and Primera Liga top scorer Dani Guiza in their ranks, goals have been hard to come by with Spain scoring more than once in only one of their last five matches.

To rectify the situation coach Luis Aragones appears to have decided to play Torres and Villa up front rather than a lone striker.

The two-man attack is likely to mean no place for Cesc Fabregas in midfield while Brazilian-born Marcos Senna is favourite to get the nod over Xabi Alonso as the holding player.

Russia coach Guus Hiddink refused to get too downcast about the loss of Arshavin and Pogrebnyak.

“I can’t complain and start crying,” he said. “I have confidence ... the rest of the team can cover.

“I want to see a very, very bright team. People like to see a team going forward and taking risks and because of this there have been a few (tactical) changes recently.”

The scoring duties are likely to fall on Roman Pavlyuchenko, who netted twice in the 2-1 win over England in October that paved the way for qualification.

Pavlyuchenko has struggled for form at club level of late and was dropped to the Spartak Moscow reserves in April after being red-carded for dissent.

But he has been finding the net for the national side in warm-up matches, scoring against Serbia and Lithuania.

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