Russia defender Vladimir Granat admits team knows very little about opening-day opponents Saudi Arabia

Russia defender Vladimir Granat will be looking to help the hosts get off to a good start on Thursday.
Updated 11 June 2018
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Russia defender Vladimir Granat admits team knows very little about opening-day opponents Saudi Arabia

  • Russia set to face Saudi Arabia in World Cup's opening clash.
  • Vladimir Granat revealed Russia have not yet had any tactical analysis of the Green Falcons.

MOSCOW: Russia’s World Cup infrastructure might have been completed well in advance, but the country’s national football team is leaving it late with their preparations ahead of Thursday’s opening match against Saudi Arabia.  
Just three days out from the tournament curtain-raiser at the Luzhniki Stadium, Vladimir Granat revealed that, while he has watched the Gulf side’s most recent matches against the likes of Peru and Germany, the squad is yet to receive any analysis or guidance on the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses from manager Stanislav Cherchesov. 
“The coach is still analizing their pros and cons and looking at their technical play,” Granat said. “The detailed analysis of our opponents is still ahead. We’ve watched their recent matches. There are no weak teams at the World Cup. We’re still fine-tuning and gaining our top form. Hopefully we’ll reach that for the opening match.”
While Saudi Arabia have shown signs of improvement in recent months, Russia have not won any of their previous seven international matches and slipped to 70th in FIFA’s most recent world rankings. They are now the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, below their Group A opponents, who are in 67th position. With Russia (in its post USSR incarnation) having never made it to the World Cup knockout stages, expectations are not high in the country, but national pride and a seemingly favorable group that also includes Egypt and Uruguay means the pressure on Cherchesov and his team is huge.
Training at a secluded football center on the outskirts of Moscow and away from the growing media circus that is starting to engulf the Russian metropolis, the hosts are disconnecting both physically and virtually. Granat has canceled all his social media networks and is avoiding reading articles about his team. 
“I’m hopeful the general opinion in the country about the team is positive,” said the Rubin Kazan defender, who refused to answer when asked if he could promise Russian fans the team would perform well at the tournament. “It’s a big holiday for the Russian people and I hope everyone enjoys the tournament.”
Russia’s Brazil-born defender, Mário Fernandes, echoed his teammate’s words, adding the analysis of the Saudi Arabia team will likely take place in the next day or two. He insisted, however, that all the focus is simply on being ready.
“Every game is decisive and difficult, but we have to think about only the next game, against Saudi,” he said.
“The coach will show us a video of the good and bad parts of their team and explain to us how we can use their weaknesses to our advantage. “We are putting all our focus on that match and will arrive with the best possible preparation. We can’t look too far forward. We are training a lot to ensure so we are lacking nothing when we face Saudi and can play a great game, because we know it is very important.”


Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

Updated 18 February 2019
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Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

  • Reds boss worried about resurgent German giants ahead of second-round first-leg clash.
  • Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich claims Liverpool are the favorites.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool side they will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Bayern Munich.
The Reds head into the Champions League clash as slight favorites after months at the top of the Premier League. But having drawn the German giants in the second round, Klopp has told his players they have to keep their feet on the ground worthy could end up out of the competition before it really gets going.
“It’ll be very tough,” there Liverpool manager said.
“(Bayern are) only two points off Dortmund in the domestic league and have been consistent finalists and semifinalists.
“They’re a world class team but at the same time we’re confident we can cause them problems.
“They’ve got world class players so we know how difficult it will be.
“Everyone has to be at 100 percent otherwise we’ll get nothing from the game.
“Having said that we have confidence we have the ability to hurt them, and it’s up to us to show that.”

After a tough start to the season Bayern are up to second in the Bundesliga. 


Liverpool went al the way to the final last year, before losing to Real Madrid. But the momentum created by that surprise run has been maintained in the Premier League and another trip to the Champions League knockout stages.
Bayern currently lie second in the Bundesliga and are starting to look like their old levels agains after a tough start to the season. For Klopp, who managed Dortmund before arriving at Anfield, that could spell trouble for the Reds.
“After six years of pretty much dominating the league it was clear this year was going to be a tougher situation.
“It’s actually still the same, being at the top of the league and still in the last-16 of the Champions League.
“It’s a normal situation with a high quality team.
“Munich’s situation, from my point of view, makes them even more dangerous and even more of a threat from my point of view.
“This is a competition, in Europe, where they always do well.”
For the Germans the role of underdogs suits them perfectly. At least that is according to Joshua Kimmich.
The defender said: “Liverpool are the favorites.
“They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.”
Before a ball has been kicked Bayern did receive some good news. Winger Franck Ribery was originally left out of the squad to play at Anfield and did not fly with his teammates. But after becoming a father, the Frenchman has now decided to join up with the squad and will be available for selection. One man who definitely will not make the pitch is Jerome Boateng. The central defender is suffering from a stomach virus.
The Bavarians will also have to wait until Tuesdays to determine whether winger Kingsley Coman will be able to play after picking up an ankle injury on Friday.
The Frenchman scored twice but was injured in the final stages of their 3-2 win at Augsburg.

KEY MAN — ROBERTO FIRMINO 

Of Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio the Brazilian is perhaps the most underrated and important. When he plays well the Reds usually do likewise. He links up the play well, settling up as many goals as he scores. Liverpool will be hoping he turns up with his A-game tonight, because if he does Bayern Munich could be in for a  long night. 

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS

For once Bayern are not having it all their own way in the Bundesliga. But they are improving and giving Borussia Dortmund something to think about in the race for the title. But home advantage will be key and a resurgent Reds will prove too strong for a Bayern defence that has, on occasions this campaign, looked less than watertight. The only question is can Liverpool get a decisive lead and put the tie to bed before the second leg?