Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Let’s put wind up Russians

Windsor Park's pitch was covered in snow yesterday
Windsor Park's pitch was covered in snow yesterday

It's not an individual member of the Northern Ireland squad that Fabio Capello fears most. Michael O'Neill's team as a whole doesn't seem to be a particular concern either.

 

Neither is it the potential of facing a hostile atmosphere at Windsor Park today or the pitch — which both he and captain Igor Denisov described as ‘soft’.

The Russia manager is instead fearing that a stiff breeze could blow his team's World Cup qualification plans off course in Belfast this afternoon.

“The wind is more difficult than the pitch,” said Capello.

“It will be like two different games — with the wind and without it.

“If it's as strong as it was during training then it will be very, very difficult.

“This is an important game for us, I just hope that we can play to the rhythm that we want to play at and that it isn't so windy.

“If it is like that then it will be very difficult for us to play the way that we want to.”

What he'll think if the predicted snowfall hits the country is anyone's guess — although those kind of conditions are likely to suit the visitors more than the home side.

The Russians take a winter break in their own league at home. They have only just returned to action, but Capello has no fears that his team will be caught cold tonight.

“The players haven't played a lot of games, only two games in the league,” said Capello.

“Some have played in European games as well which is good for them, but I am not worried about the condition of the players, they are all in good condition.

“It won't be an easy game, but I have confidence in my team.”

Despite his preoccupation with the weather, Capello isn't indifferent to the quality of the Northern Ireland team. He has seen enough of O'Neill's players from watching Premier League games during his tenure as England manager and knows their strengths.

“I know the players. I have seen their games, they played in Moscow and I know their style,” said Capello.

“Every manager knows the opposition.

“It will be noisy. Northern Ireland are strong, they play compact and they are strong from set-pieces.”

Russia come to Belfast having won all four of their Brazil 2014 qualifying games so far. There is, however, a real desire to make it five out of five.

Denisov has never played in Belfast before, but he knows exactly what to expect from Northern Ireland.

“We know that the Northern Ireland team will give everything and will be prepared to die for the win,” said Denisov.

“We are ready to do the same and we will die to win the game too.

“The pitch is soft and slow and it will be difficult for us to play like we want to, but it doesn't matter about the stadium or the conditions, we are here to win the game and that's all that matters to us.”

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