N Ireland v Russia preview
Northern Ireland will attempt to keep alive their slim chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup when they host Fabio Capello's Russia.
Last Updated: 22/03/13 7:42pm
Northern Ireland will attempt to keep alive their slim chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup when they host Fabio Capello's dominant Russia at Windsor Park on Saturday.
Michael O'Neill, who saw the game postponed from an initial date of Friday after heavy snow, has yet to earn a win since taking charge of the Northern Ireland team in February 2012 and he faces a tough task against their next opponents, who have a 100 per cent record in Group F.
Russia top the qualifying group with 12 points and Israel in second place, level with Portugal on seven points, while Northern Ireland are four points further behind.
O'Neill's team therefore have a faint opportunity of still reaching Brazil next summer if they can avoid defeat against Russia in Belfast before Tuesday's crucial home clash with Israel.
Northern Ireland lost against Russia in Moscow in their first game of the qualifying campaign and have drawn their other three matches.
Meanwhile, Capello's Russia have gone from strength to strength and the former England boss has seen his side beat Israel, Portugal and Azerbaijan.
Northern Ireland look set to be without striker Will Grigg as the in-form Walsall player, who was expected to lead the line in the absence of the suspended Kyle Lafferty, has a hamstring problem.
Burnley's Martin Paterson, back in the fold after a self-imposed exile, will be set to start as a lone striker.
But O'Neill also has Inverness forward Billy McKay and Aberdeen pair Niall McGinn and Josh Magennis available.
Rangers' versatile Andrew Little faces a late fitness test after carrying a knee injury in the build-up to the game.
Capello has overlooked Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak since taking over Russia, while ex-Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov is struggling to be fit.
Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Dmitry Tarasov could make his debut after he was given a late call-up to the Russia squad.