Bilyaletdinov eyeing home victory
The Russians are currently in a three-way tie for top spot in the pool, alongside Slovakia and Republic of Ireland, with the side which finishes at the summit guaranteed a place in the finals in Poland and Ukraine and the runners-up having to settle for the play-offs.
A match at home to Armenia looks, at least on paper, like one a side aspiring to top the group ought to win - an assessment Everton's Bilyaletdinov agreed with - although he was quick to talk up the visitors' strengths.
He told www.uefa.com: "Armenia are a very mobile and well-organised team, they move fast from defence to attack and their counter-attacks are always dangerous. They're a technically-gifted team and not easy opponents. But we're playing at home, and we need three points."
Armenia are fourth, two points behind the leading trio, having won two of their opening five games. And captain Sargis Hovsepyan admitted his side will be going all out to claim a notable scalp in St Petersburg. "The level of Russian players is probably higher but we will do everything to get a win," he said.
Leaders Slovakia host Andorra in Bratislava while the other game sees the Republic go to FYR Macedonia. Republic boss Giovanni Trapattoni is keeping his fingers crossed over skipper Robbie Keane after an injury scare.
The striker sat out the final stages of a practice match during the squad's final training session in Malahide yesterday morning before their departure for Skopje. Keane has been struggling with an Achilles problem for some time, and that will not have been helped by a kick on the ankle from defender Damien Delaney during the training exercise.
However, it was later revealed that the 30-year-old, who took his international goals tally to 49 with three in last week's two Carling Nations Cup matches, had suffered a groin strain stretching for a ball. Keane is expected to train at the Philip II Stadium this evening, but assistant boss Marco Tardelli confirmed his injury is a worry.
Speaking immediately after the session, Tardelli said: "After 15 minutes, he stopped because he has a little problem with his groin. But we think he will be good for Macedonia. I think, I don't know. In this moment, we can say nothing. I hope Robbie Keane will be okay, but if the match was tomorrow, then he wouldn't play."
West Brom striker Simon Cox, who scored on his debut against Northern Ireland last week, and Reading's Shane Long could come in if Keane does not make it. At the back, Richard Dunne is suspended while Sean St Ledger's attempts to make himself available after a ten-week lay-off with a knee injury look doomed.