The 2018 World Cup hosts, who are winless in their last six international matches, will be hoping to qualify for their third finals in succession.
After successfully qualifying for Euro 2020, finishing second in Group I behind runaway leaders Belgium, Russia's UEFA Nations League campaign fell apart despite winning their opening two matches.
Two draws and two defeats in their final four matches, including a 5-0 thrashing by Serbia, saw Hungary leapfrog the Russians to the summit of League B3.
The pressure is now on manager Stanislav Cherchesov to turn their fortunes around during the World Cup qualifiers, with Wednesday's match against European minnows Malta seemingly the perfect way to begin their route to Qatar.
Amazingly, if Russia do manage to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, then they will be unable to use their name, flag or anthem due to the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in December, which also reduced their original four-year ban for doping offences to two years. Russia would be listed in the tournament as a 'neutral team' but they could have 'Russia' on their clothing as long as the words 'neutral athlete' or 'neutral team' are given equal prominence.
They are allowed to compete as themselves at Euro 2020 and during the World Cup qualifiers as those are not defined as major events by CAS.
Cherchesov will be hoping that improved performances from his players on the pitch can divert attention from their controversial issues away from it, with a strong start and victory expected on Wednesday night.
Malta have never managed to make it to the finals of any major international competition, despite competing in the qualifying stages for every World Cup and European Championships since they joined FIFA in 1959, and once again there are no expectations for them to sneak into the top two of Group H.
Ray Farrugia's side were, however, more successful during their UEFA Nations League campaign, winning two and drawing three of their six League D1 matches and finishing second behind the Faroe Islands. In fact, Malta even went through 2020 with an unbeaten home record, scoring 10 goals in the process.
This run, albeit against nations at a similar level to themselves, will give them confidence heading into the qualifiers, especially against a Russian outfit who have failed to win any of their last six international games.
The task on Wednesday should still prove to be a difficult challenge, one that will likely see the visitors prevail, but Farrugia will be hoping that his players can give a good account of themselves and maintain a positive atmosphere heading into the rest of the campaign.
Malta boss Ray Farrugia is not expected to make many changes to his starting lineup ahead of the clash with Russia.
For Russia, Spartak Moscow midfielder Roman Zobnin is ruled out with muscle damage sustained during a Russian Premier League match last Thursday.
Malta possible starting lineup:
Bonello; Aguis, Z. Muscat, Borg; Mbong, Guillaumier, Teuma, Camenzuli; Gambin, Degabriele; Montebello
Russia possible starting lineup:
Shunin; Fernandes, Semyonov, Kudryashov, Zhirkov; Ozdoyev, Kuzyaev; Ionov, Golovin, Miranchuk; Dzyuba
We say: Malta 0-3 Russia
Malta have won only five competitive matches this century, making this encounter an apparent foregone conclusion, but the hosts will try to make it a frustrating evening for Russia on Wednesday.
However, the visitors should have no problems in securing a comfortable victory and their first away from home since September 2020.