UEFA Nations League: Turkey vs Russia preview

Turkey kick off their UEFA Nations League campaign with a match against Russia on Friday evening at Senol Gunes Stadium in Trabzon, a very interesting match between two teams that have something to prove. The two nations have last met a few months ago in a friendly match, Russia were preparing for the 2018 World Cup and they recorded a 1-1 draw against Turkey in Moscow. In fact, there have been just two meetings between these teams, both friendly matches, and both ended in draws.

Turkey have to win back their fans after having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and experienced head coach Mircea Lucescu has started to work on that since the end of the qualification campaign. Turkey have played five friendly matches this year, won two of them and drew the other three. In the last three matches Lucescu has employed more or less the same starting eleven, which means that he might think he has found the best formula for the team. Hakan Calhanoglu will be the leader of the team in midfield, while Everton striker Cenk Tosun will be trying to provide the goals.

Russia performed above expectations at the World Cup that they hosted, they reached the quarter-finals and were defeated on penalties by eventual finalists Croatia after having knocked out Spain in the previous round. The World Cup also marked a turning point in the team's history as experienced players Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Samedov and Yuri Zhirkov announced their retirement after the tournament. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is injured and is not part of the squad for this match, along with Aleksandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Vladimir Granat and Aleksandr Kokorin.

Probable line-ups:

Turkey: Serkan Kirintili - Ozbayrakli, Caglar Soyuncu, Ayhan, Caldirim - Yokuslu, Akaba - Yazici, Calhanoglu, Under - Tosun

Russia: Lunes - Fernandes, Kutepov, Dzhikyia, Kudryashov - Kuzyaev, Zobnin - Ionov, Erokhin, Cheryshev - Dzyuba

My prediction: Turkey to win 2-1, the home side has stronger motivation for the start of this campaign.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Turkey win - 2.20
Draw - 3.50
Russia win - 3.50

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