Locked in a straight race with Croatia for an automatic spot at next year’s World Cup in Qatar, Russia have two crucial qualifiers coming up this month.
First is a meeting with Cyprus in St. Petersburg on November 11, before a trip to Split to face Croatia three days later.
Russia currently sit top of their qualifying group on 19 points from eight games, with Croatia two points adrift.
With Croatia traveling to minnows Malta before taking on Russia, the final group-stage meeting in Split is likely to be decisive in the tussle for top spot and a guaranteed ticket to Qatar.
The second-placed team will have to navigate the perils of the playoffs in March.