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by Ben, last updated 2007-10-15 19:30:33

 Will England Slip Up Against Russia on Plastic Pitch in Mosow?



England’s Euro 2008 campaign is certainly back-on-track after completing their fifth consecutive 3-0 win, but it is premature to book the team hotel for next summer’s tournament in Austria and Switzerland. The plastic surface of the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow represents a huge potential banana-skin on Wednesday night, that could yet scupper the Three Lions’ qualification bid.


Can England Secure Qualification in Moscow?

McClaren has turned things around since the dark days that culminated in March with him and his side being roundly booed when failing to score in the first forty-five minutes of the away game with Group E whipping boys, Andorra. However, given Croatia’s win over Israel, only three points against Guus Hiddink’s Russian side would guarantee qualification, while a draw or worse would plunge Macca’s position right back into jeopardy, needing a win in the final game at home to the Croatians.

Having faced a real selection head-ache for the game in the Russian capital, the injury to Ashley Cole may have made up McClaren’s mind. He looks likely to retain Rooney, Owen, and Gerrard, move Gareth Barry to left-back and reinstate Lampard, despite the fact Lamps was roundly booed when introduced on Saturday. Aston Villa captain, Barry, gave another man-of-the-match performance against Estonia in midfield, but is equally at home in defence. Which team Steve McClaren sends on to the field in Moscow could provide a defining moment for his leadership of the national side.

His opposite number, Guus Hiddink, has had the luxury of a week’s preparation for this game. The Dutchman is without goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev, and speedy winger, Vladimir Bystrov, who made a big impact on the game at Wembley, and could have exploited the absence of England left-back, Ashley Cole. Instead that job will probably fall to FC Nurnberg’s Ivan Saenko. Given the need for victory Hiddink is expected to opt for an attacking line-up, and might be tempted to start Sevilla’s, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has been previously used in a substitute’s role.

The motivation for Russia is simple, victory against England would put them in pole-position for qualification behind Croatia, but anything less would almost certainly end their bid. Russia are unbeaten at home during qualification but have dropped four points against Croatia and Israel. However, the last team to beat Russians on their own soil were Brazil in March 2006, the only home defeat in their last 15 internationals.

Much of the build-up to this game had focused on the artificial surface. The Russians were originally expected to resurface specifically for this game, but have performed a u-turn, seemingly to capitalise on retaining the worn pitch. With 500,000 locals applying for the 70,000 tickets, England’s modest travelling support will certainly be outnumbered, and the atmosphere will provide a real test for England, ensuring qualification is no gimme. PinnacleSports.com make England slight favourites 2.090 (0/scratch & -0.5) with Russia 1.840 (0/scratch & +0.5).


Best Euro 2008 Odds at PinnacleSports.com!






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