MOSCOW - Russia coach Guus Hiddink has named a 24-man provisional squad for the upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel on October 7 and against Estonia four days later.
Hiddink will have his strongest squad available, with captain Aleksei Smertin, Vassili Berezutski, Yegor Titov, Dmitri Loskov, Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kerzhakov all back from injury or suspension after missing Russia's Group E opener - a 0-0 draw against Croatia.
But Hiddink has other worries on his mind. His squad has been split by allegations against CSKA Moscow by its three main rivals for the league title - Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg. They have accused CSKA of "fixing" its 1-0 win over FC Tom Tomsk last week.
"I expected CSKA to win, or to be more precise I expected Tomsk to lose," Zenit's Andrei Arshavin. Similar comments were made by Spartak captain Igor Titov and Lokomotiv's Dmitri Loskov.
The reaction was not late in coming. CSKA captain Sergei Ignashevich hit back in an interview with Sport Express. "Arshavin, Titov and Loskov would be well advised to point out exactly where Tomsk didn't make an effort or played in a way that arouses suspicion. It is insulting after one has sweat it out on the pitch to hear baseless accusations from players with whom one wears the national team colors. I would have expected a better attitude from my Russia teammates."
The animosity between the players could deepen next week when the players meet for the start of training ahead of the Euro qualifiers. Hiddink will have his work cut out as most of his squad comes from the four teams involved - CSKA, Spartak, Lokomotiv and Zenit. If Hiddink doesn't manage to stand up to his reputation as a peacemaker Israel and Estonia could be set to benefit.
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