Russia striker Denis Cheryshev has denied doping allegations ahead of today’s World Cup last-16 tie with Spain.
Villarreal winger Cheryshev is Russia’s top scorer at the tournament with three goals, just two behind Golden Boot race leader and England skipper Harry Kane.
Russia have been dogged by doping claims following their 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia and 3-1 victory over Egypt, which sealed their place in the knockout stage.
Cheryshev has been accused of taking a growth hormone in the past, but denied the allegation when it was put to him on the eve of today’s clash at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
“This is not true,” said Cheryshev. “I don’t know where journalists got this from.
“I have never used any prohibited substances and you don’t even have to think twice about it – that’s my answer.”
Cheryshev has vowed to continue his goalscoring form and pile further misery on Spain and Manchester United keeper David De Gea, who has endured a difficult tournament between the posts.
“That’s my intention as a striker, to score,” said Cheryshev.
“It’s true all players go through slumps and bad times, but we have to be professional and focus on what we have to do.
“Spain has some great players, they might be the best team in the world, but any team can hurt another and we will do our best.”
Although Spain have been far from their best in Russia, draws with Portugal and Morocco sandwiching a hard-fought win over Iran, Fernando Hierro’s side are expected to defeat the hosts.
Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov said his players must think they are “Gods” if they are to cause a major upset today and knock out the 2010 World Cup winners and 2008 and 2012 Euro champions.
“As we say in Russia, anyone can be God if he tries,” said Cherchesov. “It’s clear that this is a play-off, life or death, with only one team going through. There’s no pressure, but there is a responsibility.
“If you look at the statistics, Spain has the ball most of the time, more than their opponents. We found that when we played them last November and drew 3-3.
“We know we’ll have to look for our own chances and work out our own strategy. If it works out or not, we’ll see. But we will be prepared.”
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