England begin their Euro 2016 campaign in Marseille on Saturday night when they take on Russia in their Group B opener.
Roy Hodgson’s men will be desperate to make a positive start to the tournament, while a win would also certainly focus attention on matters on the pitch rather than the unsavoury scenes off it the last two nights caused by a minority of supporters.
Tipped by many to be in contention to win the European Championship later this month, England will be fully aware that they have to start well and set the tone with a good result against Leonid Slutsky’s men, who will be out to do exactly the same.
The Russia boss has been in somewhat of a war of words with Wayne Rooney this week through the media, and whether his decision to suggest that the Manchester United man ‘isn’t the same player as he used to be’ comes back to haunt him remains to be seen.
These two sides have previously clashed twice in competitive matches, sharing a win apiece in two Euro qualifiers back in 2007.
Much has changed for both sides since then, with Russia in particular suffering with numerous injury setbacks ahead of the tournament, but they will still be hopeful and confident in their ability to advance beyond the group stage.
Wales and Slovakia will have other ideas as they face off in Bordeaux earlier in the day, but all eyes will revert to Marseille on Saturday night to see whether or not England can make a winning start to Euro 2016.
England XI: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli, Rooney; Lallana, Kane, Sterling.
Russia XI: Akinfeev; Smolnikov, Berezutski, Ignashevich, Schennikov; Shirokov, Yusupov; Golovin, Kokorin, Smolov; Dzyuba.
Prediction: England 2-1 Russia. Hodgson’s men have goals in them, and I expect them to find the back of the net on Saturday night. There are still question marks over them defensively though, but despite experiencing a few shaky moments, they should have enough to pick up all three points.