MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 08:06:23| >> :600:1719691:1719691:
Mar 24, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Ta'Qali National Stadium
Mbong (56')
Corbolan (90+2')
FT(HT: 0-2)
Dzyuba (23'), Fernandes (35'), Sobolev (90')
Zhemaletdinov (62')

Preview: Malta vs. Russia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Malta and Russia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Russia kick off their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign on Wednesday evening when they travel to the Ta' Qali National Stadium to face Malta in Group H.

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.

Match preview

Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov pictured in September 2020© Reuters

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.

Michael Mifsud and Ray Farrugia celebrate Malta's win over Faroe Islands on March 23, 2019© Reuters

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 form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Russia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L

Team News

CSKA Moscow and Russia defender Mario Fernandes pictured in June 2020© Reuters

Malta boss Ray Farrugia is not expected to make many changes to his starting lineup ahead of the clash with Russia.

Centre-back Zach Muscat could replace Kurt Shaw in defence and feature alongside Steve Borg and Andrei Agius, who is just three caps short of making his 100th international appearance.

Newport County forward Luke Gambin is set to remain in the side along with Jurgen Degabriele, playing in behind lone striker Luke Montebello.

For Russia, Spartak Moscow midfielder Roman Zobnin is ruled out with muscle damage sustained during a Russian Premier League match last Thursday.

With Brazilian-born goalkeeper Guilherme not selected in Cherchesov's 27-man squad, Andrey Lunyov or Anton Shunin will be competing for the number one jersey, with Shunin expected to get the nod.

Striker Artem Dzyuba, who has found the net in three of Russia's last five competitive away wins, is set to start up front ahead of Anton Zabolotny.

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

SM words green background

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.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting that at least one team will not score (BTTS - no) in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.BTTS No:curl

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Spain's Santi Cazorla celebrates scoring their second goal against Malta on November 15, 2019
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States1010929
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia78419
Great BritainGreat Britain56415
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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