England will qualify for a sixth straight European tournament appearance if it wins, but several key players have fitness problems and those that do play at Russia face the fake grass of Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
Greece, Czech Republic, Sweden, Scotland and Romania are among teams that could also clinch a place with a month of the qualifying competition still to go, while Croatia and Poland can advance without even playing.
England is on a streak of five straight 3-0 wins that have revived its campaign. It beat Russia last month with a result that reportedly prompted the Russian soccer federation to decide against installing a new surface at the Luzhniki Stadium.
The home players' experience of the existing surface could give them some advantage when it comes to predicting how quickly the ball will move or how high it will bounce.
England trained upon a similar surface before traveling and the Football Association has taken extra insurance to cover its players in case they get injured.
Russia needs victory to retain a realistic chance of becoming one of two teams to advance from Group E and coach Guus Hiddink is counting on the intimidating surroundings giving his team an edge it lacked at Wembley
"The psychological aspect gives us a huge advantage and the fans will create a fiery atmosphere," Hiddink said. "It will be difficult for England."
It got more difficult for England on Tuesday when captain John Terry aggravated a knee injury while training at the stadium. He is almost sure to miss the match, meaning Sol Campbell may have to play a second game in five days despite the aging Portsmouth defender usually taking more time to recover between games.
England must also cope without left back Ashley Cole, who damaged his ankle in Saturday's victory over Estonia. Everton defender Joleon Lescott trained at left back, suggesting that he - and not Nicky Shorey or Phil Neville - will replace Cole, although Terry's injury may force McClaren to change his plans.
Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry will form the central midfield for a fourth straight match, with Barry keeping his place ahead of Frank Lampard, who prepared with the reserves and looks set to be a substitute.
"We have trained on an artificial pitch in the past few days so we know what it is all about," England defender Rio Ferdinand said. "Russia have more experience on the pitch in Moscow, but I think our quality can come through."
Russia has 18 points to England's 23 and knows that a win for England would send the visitors through and give leader Croatia a place too.
Midfielder Ivan Saenko is out because of a leg injury, so Hiddink called up Roman Shirokov.
Like Croatia, Poland does not even need to play to advance. It could reach its first European Championship if Serbia and Portugal lose to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in Group A, but Poland is more likely to have to wait until it plays at Serbia next month to advance.
Defending European champion Greece is at rival Turkey looking to avenge an earlier 4-1 loss with a win that would seal a place in Austria and Switzerland. Greece recovered after that loss in March and now leads Group C with three games remaining.
The Czech Republic plays at Germany and needs a draw to advance from Group D. The Czechs got a boost Saturday when the Germans became the first team to qualify, rendering the game almost meaningless from their perspective.
It was welcome good news for the Czechs, who are without Zdenek Grygera, Martin Jiranek, Marek Jankulovski, Milan Baros and Jan Polak because of injury or suspension, and could be without captain Tomas Rosicky, who has not played since damaging his hamstring playing for Arsenal a month ago.
Sweden needs a win at Northern Ireland and the Group F leader is aiming to avenge an earlier 2-1 defeat _ its only loss in the qualifying campaign.
"We are looking for revenge," Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. "They will pull back and we just have to go for it and try to get an early goal. Both teams want to win and it's going to be tough."
Fredrik Ljungberg, Anders Linderoth and Mikael Nilsson should all recover from minor injuries to meet Northern Ireland, which needs victory to keep alive its slim chances of catching Sweden or Spain.
"We have caused upsets before, so why not again?" said Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes, who is back from an ankle injury. "When things are against us, that is when we are at our best. There is no pressure on us, it is all on Sweden."
Scotland leads Group B with 24 points, one more than Italy and two more than France, and will qualify if it wins at Georgia and France draws against visiting Lithuania.
But since Scotland's last match is at Italy, the Italians and French will advance if they win their last two matches. France goes for the first of those wins without striker Nicolas Anelka.
Romania and Netherlands have what look like straightforward games against Luxembourg and Slovenia, respectively, and seem set to qualify from Group G.
Romania could advance with a victory, although Bulgaria is trying to keep up the pressure on the leading pair when it plays at Albania.
"The reason that we do not hold our destiny in our hand is the goalless draw against Albania in Sofia earlier this year," Bulgaria coach Dimitar Penev said. "If we had won it, it would have been a different affair.
"We must focus on the next three games. We have to win all of them."