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Russia coach Guus Hiddink billed it as a battle of the outsiders, while his Greece counterpart Otto Rehhagel admitted the last few days had been "difficult" as both sides aimed to bounce back from opening defeats in Group D.
Russia suffered a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Spain in Innsbruck, before defending champions Greece lost 2-0 to Sweden at the Stadion Salzburg Wals-Siezenheim, so both teams must get their campaign back on track on Saturday. Hiddink referred to his "young team" needing to "learn fast" at the pre-match news conference and said there would be some changes against Greece, though not many. "It's like a final and I'm curious to see how our players manage, not just tactically but mentally and emotionally," said Hiddink. "Many, many teams have the experience of playing in finals and the [UEFA] Champions League. It's up to our players to see how they cope with playing in the finals."
Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, who scored their goal against Spain, is a doubtful starter with an adductor muscle strain adding to Hiddink's selection headache in attack. The FC Spartak Moskva forward has been able to do only light running since the Spain game. Hiddink said everyone else was fit and insisted he had other options up front with Dmitri Sychev and Roman Adamov, even if Pavlyuchenko was unavailable. The Dutchman admitted that suspended skipper and talisman Andrei Arshavin would be "sorely missed" but added that he would "not use that as an excuse".
Hiddink said: "We are two outsiders – let's be honest and face the facts. The one who is the most lucky or the better team has a chance to play the last game [with an opportunity] to get into the next round." Greece coach Rehhagel said: "The Russians have a very young team and once they get going it is very difficult to stop them, so that is why we have to disrupt their stride." The 69-year-old fielded a series of questions about Greece's tactics against Sweden, but denied he had sent his side out to play negatively, explaining: "We are not a team that can score goal after goal.
Freedom of choice
"It's a free country and a free democracy and everyone can say what they like," Rehhagel continued. "We respect that because we are from Greece, the home of democracy. It's true that the last few days were difficult but we have recovered and we will be ready to tackle the match positively. I told all my players that one mistake may make the difference between victory and defeat. After one hour we made such a mistake [against Sweden], which is why we were unable to get a victory." The title-holders may have to do without Giourkas Seitaridis – the right-back is suffering from a niggling groin problem – while fellow defender Paraskevas Antzas has missed a couple of training sessions since the Sweden defeat with a calf strain. Completing the list, second-choice goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias sustained a hand injury in training and could miss the rest of the group stage.
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