The World Cup hosts are odds on favourites to kick-start their campaign with a victory but our tipster believes the underdogs can avoid a heavy defeat
The World Cup gets underway with Russia hosting Saudi Arabia on Thursday afternoon in Moscow.
Without doubt the weakest top seed in the competition, this match represents the hosts’ best opportunity to pick up a win ahead of trickier looking ties with fellow Group A contenders Egypt and Uruguay.
dabblebet’s latest odds see Russia priced as 4/9 (1.44) favourites to secure three points. The draw is available at 10/3 (4.33) with the same who offer 8/1 (9.0) that Saudi Arabia spring a surprise against the home side.
At the time of writing both sides have a full squad to pick from ahead of the opening game.
Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov has been tasked with rebuilding the backline to play in front of Igor Akinfeev with several key players retiring since Euro 2016.
That’s a situation that has been made more difficult with injuries to centre backs Viktor Vasin and Georgi Dzhikiya who weren’t included in their 23-man squad for the tournament.
Neither side has had much success to shout about in the build up to this World Cup opener. Saudi Arabia – who are now under the management of Juan Antonio Pizzi – have lost to Italy, Peru and Germany, although their defeats against the two European sides were only by a 2-1 margin.
Russia haven’t won any of their previous seven international friendlies albeit Cherchesov’s side have also taken on some of the elite international teams in an attempt to prepare.
Worryingly though, they have scored just six times in that spell of seven matches with three of those coming in one high-scoring draw with Spain.
While Russia are deservedly favourites given their home advantage, the prices about them coming out on top being so short means the value is in opposing a big win for the hosts – who have plenty of defensive questions to answer themselves.
dabblebet offer Saudi Arabia +1 on the Asian Handicap at 6/5 (2.20) and that looks a solid option. This selection is settled as a winner in the event of a win or draw for the visitors and sees punters get their money back if Russia win by a one goal margin.
Pizzi will set his side up to be tough to break down and their recent showings suggest that they should have enough to avoid a heavy defeat and could even spring a surprise in Moscow.