Russia head into their final two UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers with their destiny in their own hands but knowing three other teams are hot on their heels. Dick Advocaat's team lead Group B and have the finals in Poland and Ukraine in their sights but their advantage over the Republic of Ireland is just two points, although they do have a better head-to-head record. Armenia and Slovakia are then only a further point behind and the battle is tight.
Russia face a crunch test against Slovakia in Zilina tomorrow while Ireland, away at minnows Andorra, are poised to take advantage of any slip-up. Yet with Russia then facing Andorra, who are yet to register a point, in their final game next week, merely avoiding defeat could strengthen their position and Slovakia feel they must deliver.
"The draw is good enough for Russia and that only adds to the pressure on us," Slovakia's Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel told reporters. "We have to expect that Russia are going to beat Andorra at home next Tuesday so they can afford to come here, sit back and see what we are going to do."
Ireland, who are at home to Armenia in their final game, secured creditable goalless draws against Slovakia and Russia in September but now there is little margin for error in the race for top spot. Defender Stephen Ward said: "Over the next two games, if we concentrate on the job, get six points and maybe get that little bit of luck, then there's no reason why we can't win the group. "If it all boiled down to us having to beat Armenia on the last day, you would have taken that at the start of the group. You would fancy us against anyone at home."