Russia coach Fabio Capello vowed Thursday to stand by his captain Igor Denisov after picking him to face Portugal despite Denisov being dropped to the reserves at his club Zenit St. Petersburg.
Denisov has captained the team since Capello took over after Euro 2012, but Friday's game will be his first taste of competitive action since he argued with Zenit management three weeks ago about the size of the salaries paid to new star signings Hulk and Axel Witsel.
"I disclosed my decision in advance to the club and to the coach that I would call Igor Denisov into the national team because I think that he is a very important and necessary player for the team," Capello said.
"He has a very strong personality and a winning mentality, and those are very important characteristics for me."
Capello stressed he was free from outside constraints when picking his team.
"I have complete freedom in this department. I should be thinking about the Russian national team's interests," he said.
Denisov had undergone extra medical tests to be sure of his match fitness ahead of the Portugal game, Capello said, adding that the midfielder would not have been selected if he was not fit.
Denisov has missed the last three league games and one Champions League match for Zenit.
Earlier, Denisov thanked Capello for his support and said he wanted to perform well in return.
"I want to return his trust," he said, adding that he was "100 percent ready for tomorrow's game."
Denisov has 32 caps for Russia.