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Arshavin warns of threat posed by Irish team

ARSENAL star Andrey Arshavin fears that Ireland pose a real threat to Russia's hopes of qualifying for the 2012 European Championships as he reckons that Ireland, Russia and Slovakia are all joint favourites to top the group.

Russia, currently looking for a new manager following Guus Hiddink's announcement over the weekend that he is quitting in the summer, are desperate to qualify for Euro 2012 after their failure to reach the World Cup finals in South Africa, but key man Arshavin says it won't be easy.

"I don't agree that Russia are the outstanding favourites, we have three teams who are all capable of winning the group," said Arshavin, set to miss Arsenal's Champions League clash with Porto tomorrow.

"The three countries -- Russia, Ireland and Slovakia -- are all equal right now. It's a pity only Slovakia will be at the World Cup finals. Ireland are a very good side who had a high level of quality in the qualifying games for the World Cup.

"They have a few stars: Keane, Duff and O'Shea, and the rest of the squad are good footballers too. The games against Ireland will be anything but easy for us," added Arshavin. And the other games will be hard as well. Macedonia and Armenia will be hard to beat."