Russia's disappointing performance at Euro 2012 and subsequent upheaval give Northern Ireland a better chance of a good result in Friday's World Cup qualifier in Moscow, visiting coach Michael O'Neill said Thursday.
Russia failed to qualify from the group stage at Euro 2012 after reaching the semifinals four years earlier.
Since then, ex-England coach Fabio Capello has taken over and dropped famous names including Arsenal's Andrei Arshavin, ex-Tottenham Hotspur striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and Reading's Pavel Pogrebnyak.
"I was very surprised that they didn't progress in the tournament to the latter stages," O'Neill said.
"There's obviously been a lot of negative criticism on the back of that given the strength of the squad and I think, with the changes that have been made, that it certainly can work in our favor."
Capello's reputation as a top coach added yet more pressure for Russia, O'Neill said.
"Obviously Russia feel that he's the right man to take them forward after their exploits at Euro 2012. I think that all these expectations and this pressure, it suits us."
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis said Russia tended to dominate matches but had problems scoring goals.
"They do create a lot of chances and cause teams problems, and they just haven't managed to put them away," he said.
"We're going to have to be solid first and foremost and, if we get possession of the ball, try and cause them problems and get a goal."
In the second round of a double header of qualifiers, Russia faces Israel away, while Northern Ireland host Luxembourg. Both matches take place Tuesday.
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