NORTHERN Ireland’s Steven Davis believes his team-mates need to raise the bar if they want to emerge from Moscow with a positive result.
The captain’s watch-word during yesterday’s press conference was “positive” as he called on the whole squad to up the ante in the two World Cup qualifiers with Russia and Luxembourg.
Davis is also hoping Michael O’Neill’s side can replicate the heroics of seven years ago when Northern Ireland famously defeated England at Windsor Park.
“It has been seven years since the England win and it will take that kind of pressure to get a result here,” Davis said.
“We want to get a positive result but know it will be really difficult.
“We know we’ve slipped (to 129th) in the FIFA ratings but we don’t really think about that too much.
“Russia are obviously the favourites but we really want to go out and see what we can do.
“It’s about getting the right balance between defence and attack, being solid and hard to bear first and foremost, then get the ball going forward.”
The 27-year-old, who signed a three-year deal with Premier League side Southampton in July, has also spoken of what lies in wait at the Lokomotiv Stadium this evening.
“Without doubt, leading out my country in a competitive game, will make me very proud.
“It’s a great honour to captain my country and hopefully we can get off to a good, positive start.
“We need to star focused and work to our strengths. We will look at the group ourselves and know it will be hard to gain qualification, but we need consistency too.
“We need to pick up points where we think we should, and cause a few upsets.
“Russia are a very strong side. I thought they played some good stuff in the Euros and caused teams a lot of problems.
“Now I just want to get out there and put a performance in – and the same goes for Luxembourg. A result here would be great but it’s about focus and being consistent.”
Meanwhile, returning defender Aaron Hughes insists he is relishing today’s showdown in Moscow.
Hughes – who returned from international retirement earlier this year – believes Northern Ireland can emerge with a positive result.
“It is going to be a huge challenge, I don’t think we are under any illusions,” the Fulham defender said.
“We all know the quality that Russia possess. They proved that in the Euros during the early games, and although they crashed out a little early they will be one of the favourites to top this group.
“They also have players who play at the top level of club football, so they will be massive favourites going into Friday’s game.
“We just have to go into the game with confidence and try and stay tight at the back.
“We will come under pressure, but we have experienced players who are also playing in the Premier League in England.
“That will stand the lads in good stead and we can look forward to this campaign in a positive frame.
“It is a tough start, but we are up for the test in Moscow.”