Russia forward Roman Pavlyuchenko is expecting a tough test on Wednesday when Dick Advocaat's men continue their UEFA EURO 2012 preparations with a friendly away against fellow hopefuls Denmark in Copenhagen.
Pavlyuchenko was Russia's joint leading scorer along with Alan Dzagoev on the road to Poland and Ukraine – both men notching four goals – and he is looking forward to his first ever meeting with the Scandinavian side. "I've never played against Denmark and never even been to the country," he told UEFA.com.
"As for their players,
I can only name their striker Nicklas Bendtner off the top of my head as he played against me in the English Premier League. Overall, though, they're a very strong team with great character, even if they lack big names. We'll have a difficult game."
The FC Lokomotiv Moskva marksman, who ended a three-and-a-half year stay with Tottenham Hotspur FC in January, is nonetheless confident Russia have what it takes to prevail at Parken Stadion. "Denmark will be playing at home with the support of their fans, but we have a good team as well," he explained. "We can't say we're weaker in any department and I don't see the home team as favourites. I expect an even game and, either way, we'll give them a battle."
Russia's prospects will not be helped by injuries to leading goalkeepers Igor Akinfeev and Vyacheslav Malafeev, yet Pavlyuchenko feels their replacements are more than ready to prove their worth. "We definitely have good players to stand in for our goalkeeping duo," said the 30-year-old. "Vladimir Gabulov already has several caps to his name, while Sergei Ryzhikov is by no means a newcomer either. I don't think we'll experience any problems between the posts in this match."
The Denmark encounter will be Russia's first friendly since their 1-1 draw with Greece on 11 November, a fixture Pavlyuchenko had to sit out due to a back problem. Unsurprisingly, he is raring to return to the international stage.
"I've missed the lads a lot," he said. "I want to meet them again and speak to them. We don't play very often and it's the winter break in Russia, with almost everyone away at training camps with their teams. As for myself, I've worked a lot during the last ten days and had two training sessions per day. I'm very close to my best form and can play 90 minutes if the coach gives me the chance."
Pavlyuchenko's hunger has also been heightened by Lokomotiv's UEFA Europa League exit last Thursday. Having already contested the competition with Tottenham this season, the forward was ineligible to help out and could only watch as the Railwaymen were beaten by Athletic Cub on away goals.
"Of course everybody wants to leave those disappointments behind, but they keep playing on your mind," said Pavlyuchenko. "Everybody was really disappointed after the second leg, but it's time to turn to the national team. We have many games ahead of us and, if we work hard, the results will come."
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