MOSCOW, September 27 (RIA Novosti)
Zenit St. Petersburg pair Igor Denisov and Alexander Kerzhakov have been called into a preliminary 36-man Russia squad for World Cup qualifiers against Portugal and Azerbaijan despite being dropped to the reserves by their club in a salary spat.
Denisov was given the captain's armband by Fabio Capello after the Italian axed Andrei Arshavin and a host of other regulars following the country's failure at Euro 2012.
But Denisov was dropped from the Zenit squad over the weekend after allegedly issuing a pay rise ultimatum following the arrival of high-paid stars Hulk and Axel Witsel.
Kerzhakov, the club's top striker last season, was also relegated from the first team, presumably for taking Denisov's side.
Nevertheless, they were both in a list of players posted on the Russian Football Union site on Thursday. It remains to be seen if they make the final 24-man squad.
Some surprise names in the preliminary squad, meanwhile, include defender Vladimir Granat of Dynamo Moscow, Anzhi midfielder Georgy Gabulov, Terek Grozny paid Oleg Ivanov and Igor Lebedenko, Vladislav Kulik of FC Kuban, and Lokomotiv Moscow striker Maxim Grigoriev.
All are uncapped.
Arshavin and Spartak Moscow striker Roman Pavlyuchenko failed to reclaim their places in the squad, despite the former scoring a goal and getting three assists in Wednesday's 6-1 thrashing of Coventry City.
Russia look to maintain a perfect start to qualifying for Brazil after beating Northern Ireland at home 2-0 and Israel away 4-0 earlier this month.
Portugal come to Moscow on October 12, with Azerbaijan coming four days later.
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