Stadium: Volgograd Arena (Volgograd).
In the first-round match, Russia beat Malta 3-1. Will Valeri Karpin's charges avoid problems now? We predict that this time the Russians won't leave any chances for their opponents to succeed!
After their defeat at UEFA EURO 2020, the Russian national team has changed their coach, making it even more difficult to judge their performance. Whereas under Stanislav Cherchesov, it was clear that a win was good and a different outcome was terrible, and nobody cared about the quality of play at all, now the expectations are much higher. In the game against Croatia, Valeri Karpin's charges got one point in a 0-0 draw, but such a result should hardly cause any excitement as the Croatians still had problems with their squad, and there is still a return game in Croatia ahead. Next up was a 2-0 win over Cyprus, but there were also some poor 30 minutes in the closing stages. The main thing is that after the fifth round of qualifying, the Russian national team remains in first place in the group.
The Maltese national team is not used to significant challenges. A total of 20 times, they have participated in World and Continental qualifying tournaments, 19 of which have seen them finish last in their group, and once before that, they have finished last. Now, the Red-Whites have a good chance to avoid the last spot in the table, as they sensationally defeated Cyprus 3-0 in the fourth round of FIFA World Cup 2022, and before that, they managed to take a 2-2 draw from Slovakia. Thus, the Maltese have four points on their books that allow them to sit in fifth place in Group H, but of course, they cannot dream of travelling to Qatar.
History of head-to-head encounters between Russia and Malta
Throughout their history, the teams have only played two head-to-head games between Russia and Malta. In 1996, the opponents met in a friendly match in which Russia's players clinched victory with a 2-0 scoreline. The opponents played again in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers when the Russians were victorious in the first leg, 3-1.
Expert Betting Tips
Valeri Karpin started the year 2021 as the head coach of Rostov, where he managed to play a total of 14 official matches with only three wins: at home against Arsenal Tula, who scored only one away point during the entire last season, as well as against Rotor and Tambov, who left the elite division at the end of the season. The coach knows how to play against underdogs, picking the right words for his charges, so there should be no underestimating the opponent. Otherwise, Malta have no chance of a decent outcome. As a result, we offer to bet on Russia to win with a handicap (-2.5) for 2.16.
After Euro 2020, we could hardly think that the Russian team is the unconditional favorite in the upcoming match. Yes, Malta beat Cyprus more decisively than Valeri Karpin's team - 3-0 against 2-0. Yes, Malta took away points from Slovakia. Yes, the Russians have problems with their squad. Nevertheless, the Russian national team must win the game quickly, but it is crucial to score a quick goal so that the Maltese do not start to believe in themselves, setting up another exploit. With that in mind, it's worth looking at a bet on the match's first goal being scored from 1 to 20 minutes inclusive at odds of around 1.90.
Fedor Smolov stopped being called up to the Russian national team after the 2018 World Cup, as Stanislav Cherchesov was relying on a completely different man in attack. Still, with the change of head coach, Fedor was back in the national team. Yes, Valeri Karpin left him in reserve for the game against Croatia without giving a single minute. Still, in the encounter with Cyprus, the Lokomotiv player came out in the starting line-up and provided two assists which ensured the victory for Russia. There is a high probability that the 31-year-old forward will now play in the starting line-up too, and the modest level of the Maltese defence will allow him to score. You can bet on Fedor Smolov's goal at odds of around 1.76.