The youthful Three Lions are looking to justify their reputation among the Euro 2016 favorites against Leonid Slutsky’s injury ravaged team.
Roy Hodgson is likely to field an attacking line up and is asking for “confidence” from his team in order to overcome a hardworking Russia team and get off to a good start at Euro 206 in the Stade Velodrome.
England has a doubt over the fitness of Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand. The full-back missed a weeks training with an unspecified injury and did not play a part in the 1-0 friendly win against Portugal. Chris Smalling was also a brief doubt earlier in the week but has stated he is fit and available for selection.
Both Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson are expected to be fit an available as well. Question marks were raised over their inclusion in the final 23-man squad due to the fact they both experienced lengthy lay-offs during the domestic season.
Sbornaya’s Euro 2016 preparations were given a near cataclysmic blow when it emerged that leading midfielder and key playmaker Alan Dzagoev was ruled out the tournament.
To make matters worse Russia was also handed the news that midfielder Igor Denisov was ruled out after suffering a hamstring injury in the team’s final friendly against Serbia.
Roy Hodgson has some decisions to make for England and it is still unknown whether he will favor a traditional 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond. That decision will depend on both whether and where he decides to start each of Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy and EPL top scorer Harry Kane.
The English have the second youngest team at Euro 2016 and England boss Roy Hodgson believes there will be a lot more to come from this group of players after the summer tournament in France.
“I have my sights firmly fixed on the future (against Russia), but I do believe that a lot of these players will go on to future tournaments and be even better than they will be this time,” Hodgson told the press.
“Most of them are at the start of their careers, and I am rather hoping they will be seen as players of potential.”
Despite his players collective average age of 25, Hodgson asking for a bold and assured performance in their opening game at Euro 2016.
“We’ve got to approach this tournament without fear, we’ve got to show confidence in ourselves,” he said
“I would like the players to show as much confidence in themselves as we, the coaching staff, have in them because we know we do have a lot of very talented footballers.”
Leonid Slutsky took over from former-England boss Fabio Capello after the 2014 World Cup. He believes their opening game pits them as massive underdogs against a superior England team.
“England are a much stronger side than the other teams. They have young players, but of a high level. Their ten victories in qualifying are a testament to that strength,” he said.
“Of course in our group they can surpass anyone,” he added
Russia’s preparations have been disastrous due to mounting injury problems. After Alan Dzagoev was ruled of with a hamstring injury key midfielder Igor Denisov became the latest player to become ruled out of Euro 2016.
Denisov’s loss proved to have hit squad hard as the players took to the training pitch on Wednesday wearing T-shirts with the message: “Igor, we are with you.”
“It’s such a shame because he was one of our key players, the captain in that last game against Serbia, and we wanted to show our support for him,” said Russia midfielder Pavel Mamaev.
“For him it was going to be a really important tournament. The coach has not detailed anything for certain about central midfield now, but we’ve lost a key player, and that’s a shame.”
England has only ever met Russia twice in the history of football. In the two games both teams recorded home victories.
The two meetings took place five weeks apart in 2007 during qualification for Euro 2008. At Wembley England strode to a 3-0 victory with a brace from Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand. In Moscow it was Roman Pavlyuchenko who netted a brace as Russia overturned a 1-0 half-time deficit. The result helped ensure that Russia qualified for Euro 2008 while England did not.
Russia was unable to muster a victory in either of their two Euro 2016 warm up games. Against Czech Republic they were denied a draw via a late Tomas Necid winner. Versus Serbia they were denied late again as Aleksander Mitrovic’s 88th minute equalizer leveled the scores at 1-1 after Dyzuba had put the Russian ahead.
England meanwhile went unbeaten throughout qualifying and continued that tradition in their three Euro 2016 warm-up games. Roy Hodgson’s men dispatched Turkey and Australia 2-1 each before beating Portugal 1-0 with a Chris Smalling header in the dying moments.
England made mince meat of their group and seemed in a hurry to get to France by becoming the first team to qualify for the tournament. They notched up 10 wins from 10 games, a record that would raise the spirits of any nation, but not England.
Russia won their last four group games and finish second in group G. Albeit a massive eight points behind table toppers Austria, they still managed to edge past Sweden who finished two points behind them in third. Key Man Artyon Dzyuba top scored for the Russians with 8 goals in qualification.
England: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Bertrand; Henderson, Dier, Ali; Vardy, Rooney, Kane.
Russia: Akinfeev; Smolnikov, V Berezutski, Ignashevich, Schennikov; Yusupov, Shirokov, Smolov, Shatov; Kokorin, Dzyuba
England 1 – 0 Russia – 9/2
England 1 – 2 Russia – 14/1
England 4 – 1 Russia – 40/1
Harry Kane to score first and England to win 3-1 – 50/1
Both teams to score and Russia to win – 9/1