England kick-off UEFA Euro 2016 in Group B against Russia, with a preview, team news and the key battle at the Stade Velodrome (kick-off 8pm).
England conceded just three goals as they won all 10 games in qualifying for the tournament, scoring 31 goals. The biggest talk all week has been Roy Hodgson’s selection. He looks to have decided to leave Leicester City marksman Jamie Vardy out of the side, with Raheem Sterling starting wide left with captain Wayne Rooney being accommodated in a midfield role.
Hodgson still looks uncertain about the best formation to play or which players would give him the best performance. That could prove their undoing. While Rooney is captain, there is the possibility that the Manchester United striker could see the tournament slip him by if he fails to make an impact in midfield.
Igor Denisov’s injury is a massive blow for Russia and he would have surely played Rooney out of the game. In his absence, Artur Yusupov will need to step up, but for England, there will be a question over their discipline. In that regard, Hodgson will hope Eric Dier will have put his indiscipline behind him that came out towards the end of the Premier League season.
England will look to exploit the age of Russia central defence if they opt to go for Sergei Ignashevich (36) and Vasili Berezutski (33) at the back. In recent friendlies, England against Turkey and Australia, they lacked creativity.
Russia’s defeats in qualifying came at the hands of Austria (twice) but they will look to Zenit St Petersberg frontman Artyom Dzyuba to get among the goals. He scored eight times in qualifying. He needs to stay fit and although he has little or no pace, given the space, he will expose the English defensive frailties.
Harry Kane v Sergei Ignashevich
England and Harry Kane will look to exploit the age of Sergei Ignashevich (36) and Vasili Berezutski (33) in the Russia defence. The came up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic in one game in qualifying and kept him quiet, so there is quality in the old pair.
Joe Hart – Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose – Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney – Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling – Harry Kane.
Igor Akinfeev – Igor Smolnikov, Vasili Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich, Georgi Shchennikov – Roman Shirokov, Artur Yusupov – Aleksandr Golovin, Aleksandr Kokorin, Fyodor Smolov – Artyom Dzyuba.