Spartak Moscow left-back Dmitry Kombarov is to start for Russia at home to Northern Ireland on Friday as a replacement for ex-Chelsea wing-back Yuri Zhirkov, Rusia coach Fabio Capello said Thursday.
Kombarov, a versatile defender who has four Russia caps to his name, is preferred at left-back to Lokomotiv Moscow’s uncapped Andrei Yeshchenko.
“Kombarov will be on the field from the start and will play in the position of left back,” Capello said.
Zhirkov has been out of action since picking up an injury in training August 22 and was not included in the Russia squad for the game.
Capello said he would not experiment with his tactics against Northern Ireland.
"I think it's important to try not to change a system that works and moreover we have little time," he said.
"Throughout the qualifying phase we'll use this system. We'll have friendlies in which we can try out something new and look at new players."
At an open training session Thursday morning, defender Alexey Berezutsky and midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov broke off training early with ankle problems.
Both players were treated with ice packs and Berezutsky was limping noticeably as he boarded the team bus.
The match against Northern Ireland is Capello’s first competitive game in charge of Russia, who next play Israel on September 11.
The Northern Ireland game will be played exactly a year after a plane crash killed the entire roster of Russian hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Capello said his Russia team would mark the anniversary with a ceremony before kick-off.