Group F of UEFA qualifying for the 2014 World Cup is already a two team race. Portgual and Russia both have six points, while everyone else sits with only one. The only question that appears left to be answered is who wins the group and who faces a potential playoff to qualify for Brazil. Today's match between the two group leaders will go a long way towards determining just that.
Fabio Capello's Russian side welcomes Portugal to Moscow, hoping to earn a key three points and keep their 100% percent record in tact. Of course, Portugal have the same goals.
For Paul Bento and Portugal, there had been concerns that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo might be out after spraining his shoulder in the El Clasico match last weekend. The Real Madrid midfielder has made a full recovery though and in doing so, greatly boosted Portugal's chances. Not everything is rosy though, with Pepe's availability still up in the air.
How important is Ronaldo? Just look at Capello's comments about him in his press conference on Tuesday:
"Honestly speaking, I was hoping that Ronaldo's injury would be more serious."
Two points for honesty Don Fabio.
Capello has again left Arsenal winger Andrey Arshavin and Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak out of the squad as he continues to adapt to the massive shift from England to Russia. Despite the learning curve, he's had early success, but this match against Portugal will be his biggest test to date.
Neither side is dealing with any major injuries, only Portugal's Pepe is in doubt as he attempts to recover from a thigh injury picked up during last weekend's El Clasico match.
Match Date/Time: 8 p.m. local, 11:00 a.m. ET
Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia
TV: ESPN2 (U.S.), ESPN Deportes (U.S. Spanish), Sportsnet One (Canada)
Online: WatchESPN (U.S.)