Fabio Capello has impressed since taking charge of Russia, revamping the squad by introducing a number of younger players from the domestic league's smaller teams. They are now only a point away from guaranteeing their place at next summer's World Cup, with a draw away in Azerbaijan on Tuesday required to finish the job.
Even a shock defeat wouldn't prevent them qualifying unless there was a dramatic swing on goal differential, with second-placed side Portugal currently three points and seven goals in arrears of Capello's outfit. Russia come into this game on the back of a three match winning streak, with a comfortable 4-0 win away in Luxembourg on Friday moving them ever closer to Brazil 2014.
However, while Russia are firm favourites heading into Tuesday's game in Baku, it won't necessarily be an easy game. Azerbaijan only lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture a year ago, and are unbeaten in their last five matches -- though their 2-0 win over Northern Ireland on Friday was their first competitive victory since 2009.
Azerbaijan: Kamran Ağayev; Elnur Allahverdiyev, Rashad Sadiqov, Rasim Ramaldanov, Mahir Shukurov; Rahid Amirguliyev, Gara Garayev; Vüqar Nadirov, Rauf Aliyev, Araz Abdullayev; Rufat Dadashov
Russia: Igor Akinfeev; Dmitri Kombarov, Vladimir Granat, Vassili Berezutski, Aleksey Kozlov; Roman Shirokov, Denis Glushakov, Viktor Faizulin; Aleksandr Kokorin, Alexander Kerzhakov, Alexander Samedov
Match Date/Time: Tuesday, 10 p.m. local, 1 p.m. ET
Venue: Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan
TV: Sportsnet (Canada), Channel One Russia (Russia)
Online: ESPN3 (U.S.)