Facing even more pressure from UEFA — on top of a major fine and threat of disqualification — Russia will try to climb Euro 2016 Group B’s standings, facing an equally point-desperate Slovakia Wednesday at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France.
The two sides have met only eight times, with the Russians taking the last two meetings: a friendly in May 2014 won 1-0 and in 2011, by the same score. But even if they extend the winning streak, it could be Russia’s last match in this year’s tournament.
Russian supporters attacked England’s fans prior to last week’s 1-1 tournament opener in Marseille and continued the violence well after the match, leading UEFA to warn that if the unrest happens again, manager Leonid Slutsky’s side will be tossed. Russia was also fined 150,000 euros ($168,000).
A victory and three points over Slovakia would put Russia in contention with England and Wales for the group’s top two spots. Oddsmakers listed Russia the third most likely to qualify.
Slutsky expects Russia’s supporters to behave for the remainder of the tournament.
“We have to follow the rules; I’ve already said that,” Slutsky said. “We do need your support, but we have to focus on the support of our team and do it in a legal framework.
“We are sure that we’re not going to be kicked out. There’s not going to be any injustice.”
Though it has one victory in its last five matches, Russia’s hoping to break out of the group stage for the second time in tournament history.
Slovakia, meanwhile, are also in dire need of points in order to have any shot of advancing in its first year of Euro qualification. Jan Kozak’s side are pointless after falling to Wales 2-1 in their opener, even though Ondrej Duda supplied an equalizer in the 61st minute.
While they didn’t look like the side that upset Germany 3-1 in friendly action last month, Slovakia does have the requisite firepower to dash Russia’s hopes.
Midfielder Marek Hamsik, who leads the squad with 88 caps and 18 goals, as well as captain and Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel will anchor Slovakia’s two fronts.
Prediction: Russia 1 - 1 Slovakia
Kickoff Time: 9 a.m. ET
TV Channels: ESPN (U.S.), Russia 1, HRT 2 (Slovakia)
Live Stream: ESPN3