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Advocaat backs Russians to finish top of Group B

DICK ADVOCAAT insists that Russia are favourites to finish on top of the Group B table in the Euro 2012 qualifiers because they're the only team who have their fate in their own hands.

It's being teed up to be a very tense week in eastern Europe, with group leaders Russia taking on Slovakia in Zilina on Friday night, while, over in Yerevan, Armenia are at home to Macedonia.

Each of the four teams in contention for the top two places in the group feel they have a chance of at least a play-off spot, with Armenia making confident noises about sneaking into second place ahead of Ireland or Slovakia -- but Russia are in the driving seat, as their manager, Advocaat, admits.


"I feel we are favourites. We are on top of the group but the only thing that's important is that we're top of the group on Tuesday night," Advocaat said.

"It's most important that everything is in our own hands, and other teams in our group are not able to say that;. Now we just have to finish off the job that we started."

Russia do have at least one problem as star striker Alexander Kerzhakov will miss Friday's game in Zilina through injury but Spurs forward Roman Pavlyuchenko is on standby to take over his role in the team.

Slovakia are not without their problems as their captain -- and Gok Wan lookalike -- Marek Hamsik is suspended.

Meanwhile, Armenia have added some Dutch courage to their bid to outwit Ireland in the race for Euro 2012 qualification.

The Armenian squad are this week in Yerevan training for Friday's game at home to Macedonia, fans hoping that the team managed by Vardan Minasyan can get the win they need to leave them only a point behind Ireland when they play in Dublin next Tuesday.


And there was a new face in the squad as Dutch-based midfielder Araz Ozbilis, who plays for Ajax, is in the squad for the first time after the Turkish-born player declared for Armenia, and received the necessary passport following the intervention of Armenia's president.

Ozbilis may not feature in their game against Macedonia but he is in the squad and could be pressed into action in Dublin if needed.

Coach Minasyan left it late to name his squad as his panel for the double header was only revealed yesterday.

Armenia have 12 foreign-based players in their squad but apart from Ajax man Ozbilis, the rest all play for clubs in Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Iran.


Keepers: Roman Berezovski (Khimki, Russia), Gevorg Kasparov (Mika).

Defenders: Sargis Hovsepyan (Pyunik), Hrayr Mkoyan (Mika), Robert Arzumanyan (Jagellonia, Poland), Valeri Akeksanyan (Sanat-Naft, Iran), Levon Hayrapetyan (Legia, Poland), Artak Edigaryan (Pyunik), Artur Yuspashyan (Pyunik), Varazdat Haroyan (Pyunik).

Midfielders: Artur Edigaryan (Banants), Henrik Mkhitaryan (Shatktar), Karlen Mkrtchyan (Matallurg Donetsk), Edgar Malakyan (Pyunik), Araz Ozbilis (Ajax), Zaven Badoyan (Impuls).

Forwards: Gevorg Ghazaryan (Metallurg Donetsk), Marcos Pizelli (Metallurg Donetsk), Edgar Manucharyan (Ural, Russia), Yura Movsisyan (Krasnodar, Russia), Artur Sarkisov (Shinnik, Russia).