EVERTON star Diniyar Bilyaletdinov believes that Russia can cope with the loss of star goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev for their Euro 2012 qualifiers against Macedonia and Ireland.
Group B leaders Russia take on a Macedonia side, managed for the first time in a competitive game by new coach John Toshack, in Moscow on Friday before that crucial game at home to Ireland on Tuesday.
But the Russians suffered a major blow before the double header as experienced keeper Akinfeyev is out of the game with a serious knee injury. Rookie keeper Anton Shunin (Dinamo Moscow) has been called in as back-up to Zenit's Vyacheslav Malafeyev but Everton midfielder Bilyaletdinov says the injury is not a big worry for the home side.
“Akinfeyev is a very strong keeper who has minded our goal for a long time,” says Bilyaletdinov. “But we have others who can fill in for him.
“Malafeyev has already played for the national team, he played against Wales, and I am sure he will be ready to play against Ireland,” added Bilyaletdinov, a sub for Everton in Saturday's win over Blackburn.
The injury picked up by Akinfeyev in the Moscow derby was filling all the news pages in the Russian papers today. Dick Advocaat's squad trained for the first time in Moscow this morning.
KEEPERS: Malafeyev (Zenit), Shunin (Dinamo Moscow).
DEFENDERS: Anyukov (Zenit), A Berezutski, V Berezutski (both CSKA), Zhirkov (Anzhi), Shishkin (Lokomotiv).
MIDFIELDERS: Bilyaletdinov (Everton), Glushakov, Ignashevich (both Lokomotiv), Denisov, Zyryanov, Shirokov (all Zenit), Dzagoev (CSKA), Semshov (Dinamo).
FORWARDS: Arshavin (Arsenal), Kerzhakov (Zenit), Pavlyuchenko (Spurs), Pogrebnyak (Stuttgart).