No country has ever retained the European Championship trophy and while few expected Greece to do so this year, for them to be eliminated after two matches would nevertheless be a disappointment.
That is the prospect should they lose in Salzburg tonight and Spain and Sweden draw in Innsbruck. It would be the worst performance from a reigning champion since France failed to qualify for the finals in 1988. That should be enough to persuade Otto Rehhagel to abandon his defensive approach, were it not for the knowledge that Russia are vulnerable to the counter-attack but threatening when given space. The Greeks may again sit deep, though they are expected to dispense with the sweeper system.
Russia's Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, said: "They will play their own way and we have to deal with that. Normally they keep a lot of people in the defensive line and it's difficult to break through that wall. I think that as European champions they should take more initiative but that's their way of playing and we'll have to be very smart and try not to walk into the traps they set."
Hiddink's playmaker, Andrei Arshavin, is suspended and he may also be without Roman Pavlyuchenko, who has a thigh problem.
"Obviously [Arshavin] would be sorely missed but the young team will not use this as an excuse," said Hiddink. "It would be easy to simply say, 'One of our best guys is not on the pitch so we can't win, we can't do it'. I certainly don't want us to use that excuse."
"We know we have to win to stay alive," said the Greece midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos. "The heart of the champion is still beating strong."
Greece (probable, 4-3-3): Nikopolidis (Olympiakos); Torosidis (Olympiakos), Kyrgiakos (Eintracht Frankfurt), Dellas (AEK Athens), Seitaridis (Atletico Madrid); Basinas (Real Mallorca), Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Katsouranis (Benfica); Amanatidis (Eintracht Frankfurt), Gekas (Bayer Leverkusen), Charisteas (Nuremburg).
Russia (probable, 4-5-1): Akinfeyev (CSKA Moscow); Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Shirokov (Zenit), Kolodin (Dynamo Moscow), Zhirkov (CSKA); Sychev (Lokomotiv Moscow), Zyryanov (Zenit), Semak (Rubin Kazan), Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), Bilyaletdinov (Lokomotiv Moscow); Pavlyuchenko (Spartak Moscow).
Suspended: Russia Arshavin. Misses next match if booked: Greece Charisteas, Seitaridis, Torosidis.
Greece v Russia. Today, 19.45, Salzburg, ITV1Reuse content