Aragones keeps Russians guessing

SPAIN coach Luis Aragones has given little away over team selection for his side’s opening Group D game of Euro 2008 against Russia (kick-off 5pm).

Debate in Spain is raging over who out of Xabi Alonso, Ruben de la Red and Marcos Senna should be the one to partner Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez in the holding midfield role.

Aragones would not be drawn on his selection, preferring instead to concentrate on opponents Russia.

“It’s difficult for Spain to come out of a game without having scored, but Russia throw nine men behind he ball,” he said.

However, the Spain coach hinted that both Fernando Torres and David Villa may start up front to break the Russians down, despite the fact that the Valencia forward Villa is nursing a thigh injury.

“We have Villa and Torres, who are very quick, who have quality and an eye for goal. So it’ll be difficult for us to come out of the game without scoring,” Aragones added.

Spain’s only other injury worry is Andres Iniesta who is still recovering from food poisoning.

A major concern for Russia is that they will be without forward duo Andrei Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebniak.

The heroes of Zenit St Petersburg’s UEFA Cup run miss out through suspension and injury, respectively, with Pogrebniak having to withdraw from the tournament completely after succumbing to a knee problem.

Their Zenit team-mate Konstantin Zyrianov will now take up responsibility for driving the Russian attack, a job he appears to be confident of doing.

“Spain is a good team, but I wouldn’t say any more than that,” he said.

On Torres, Zyrianov added: “He’s a good forward, but nothing more.”

Russia coach Guus Hiddink has given his side a licence to express themselves when they take on the much-fancied Spanish.

“I don’t want to see a team that is afraid to play, as was the case in past tournaments,” said the Dutchman. “We’ve done our best, we’ve trained well, and we’re here to give Spain a good fight.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a Russian team doing it’s best to play football, and that’s important.”


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