Brunt looking for performance
West Brom ace calls for good display
Last Updated: September 6, 2012 9:36am
Northern Ireland ace Chris Brunt says their level of performance against Russia on Friday is vital.
The World Cup 2014 qualifier at the Lokomotiv Stadium sees Michael O'Neill take charge of the national side in a competitive match for the first time.
But while the former Shamrock Rovers manager is harbouring hopes of a dream victory, West Brom playmaker Brunt is simply hoping for a morale boosting performance against the Group F heavyweights.
Russia is widely considered one of the most challenging places to visit in qualification but Brunt is at least hoping to lay the foundations for a victory against Luxembourg at Windsor Park on Tuesday.
"We want to get a positive performance in Moscow. Russia is a difficult place to get a result, but our focus is on a positive performance," he said.
"We need a good performance going into Tuesday against Luxembourg. Home games are crucial in qualifying campaigns and this one will be no different.
"I saw Russia at the Euros and I know they have a new manager now in Fabio Capello, so they'll be out to impress and lay down a marker.
"They really impressed in their opening game at the Euro 2012 but then got knocked out.
"They will have been disappointed by that and we know they'll want to get off to a strong start in the group."
Hull's Corry Evans, hoping to win a place on the right of midfield on Friday, believes Northern Ireland will need to produce an "heroic" display to leave Moscow with a positive result.
The 22-year-old midfielder said: "We'll go into the game as massive underdogs and that is fine by us.
"We know it will take a heroic performance and that the Russians are going to have a lot of possession, move the ball quickly and have a huge home crowd behind them. But it's up to us to break down their play and take our chances when they arrive.
"It's very important we get off the mark and I see no reason why we can't come away with something from Moscow.
"There is a greater expectation on the Russians at home; they need to deal with that and we need to add to their pressure then take advantage."
Northern Ireland go into the match without three of their original squad - Paddy McCourt, Shane Ferguson (both groin) and Martin Paterson (hamstring) all ruled out - but bolstered by the arrival of Sammy Clingan as cover.
Ferguson and Paterson will both be assessed at the weekend and could return for Tuesday's qualifier against Luxembourg at Windsor Park.