England get ready to kick-start their Euro 2016 campaign with a tricky encounter against Russia at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Saturday.
The Euro 2016 campaign for Group B hopefuls kicks off on Sunday in Marseille. England are the only team in the tournament to have won each of their qualifying games leading up to the tournament proper. Naturally, that implies that the pressure will be on The Three Lions to perform and go a long way in the tournament. Often labelled as the perennial underachievers, this young England squad will have a lot to prove once their campaign gets underway in France.
Russian mind games
Russian coach Leonid Slutsky indulged in some mind games earlier this week saying that England captain Wayne Rooney is “not the player that he was earlier”. However, adding fuel to the fiery debate over Wayne Rooney’s position in the squad will only serve to provide the 30-year-old with added motivation and drive to prove his critics wrong as he intends to lead England to a first European Championship.
Russian striker Artem Dzyuba is considered a potential danger-man, with the 6ft 5in striker looking to dent English hopes of qualifying for the next round. Having scored 29 goals in all competitions last season, the tall striker is one who Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill will definitely have their attention fixed on. Russia, however, have problems of their own with a lot of injury concerns to deal with. Experienced midfielder Igor Denisov a notable absentee, while Alan Dzagoev, Denis Cheryshev, Yuri Zhirkov and Oleg Kuzmin are also injury doubts.
Vardy likely to start from the bench
Roy Hodgson, on the other hand, has opted to focus on his side ahead of Saturday’s opener. A few players in the England squad — especially Jamie Vardy, who has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal — will be expected to leave decisions regarding their club futures aside as England begin their Euro 2016 campaign.
The Three Lions are expected to start with a 4-3-3 lineup, where they are expected to start with Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling on either side of Harry Kane, with Jamie Vardy set to start from the bench. England, on the other hand, have less to worry about on the injury front, as defenders Chris Smalling and Ryan Bertrand only received minor knocks in training and should be 100% fit for the opening encounter on Saturday.