Group B sparks into life with a heavyweight clash between two sides tipped to go far in the tournament.
Kick Off: Thursday, 18th June, 2009, 20:45 CET,
Gothenburg – Sweden.
Gothenburg – Sweden.
Leading The Way
After the opening round of fixtures, England lead Group B although Stuart Pearce’s men did find it hard going against Finland on Monday night.
Despite taking an early lead in the game through Lee Cattermole, the Young Lions were reduced to 10-men after only half an hour due to Michael Mancienne’s sending off.
Yet England battled back to win the game courtesy of Micah Richards’ second half header and will now head into the fixture with Spain with growing confidence.
Speaking to the media after the win, the England boss was full of praise for the courage his side showed in their performances against the Finns.
However, when asked if his team’s display was enough to challenge for the title he replied honestly that they were, “a million miles away from it.”
Certainly England will surely need to improve if they are to beat Spain on Thursday, but they will be buoyed by the knowledge that another three points will see Pearce’s side safely through to the semi-finals.
Despite being hot favourites to win the title in Sweden, Spain began their campaign with a goalless draw against Germany.
Whilst the Spaniards started the game brightly they struggled to break down a typically disciplined German side and after a strong second-half performance by Horst Hrubesch’s team, they will be pleased to have escaped with a point.
Speaking after the game both Sergio Asenjo and Esteban Granero admitted they were pleased to get a “difficult” game out of the way and will now look forward to taking on the English.
Of course one problem that must worry manager Lopez Caro is the lack of goals his team are managing.
Spain have found the back of the net only three times in their last five outings and should they fail to find the net again, they may find themselves facing an early exit from the tournament.
Last Five Results
Jun 15: Spain 0-0 Germany
Mar 31 Spain 0-0 Sweden
Mar 27 Rep. Ireland 2-1 Spain
Feb 10 Spain 1-1 Norway
Nov 18 Portugal 4-1 Spain
Jun 15: England 2-1 Finland
Jun 09 England 7-0 Azerbaijan
Oct 14 England 2-2 Wales
Oct 10 Wales 2-3 England
Sept 5 England 2-0 Portugal
Caro may decide to stick with the same starting XI that began the game against Germany.
Possible Starting XI: Asenjo, Sergio Sanchez, Chico, Torrejon, Monreal, Javi Martinez, Raul Garcia, Sisi, Granero, Jurado, Bojan
England have defensive worries with Michael Mancienne suspended and Nedum Onouha and Micah Richards both injury doubts.
James Milner is also struggling with injury and Pearce must also decide whether to start with Theo Walcott or continue with Fraizer Campbell who replaced him at half-time against the Finns and impressed.
Possible Starting XI: Hart, Cranie, Richards, Onuoha, Gibbs, Cattermole, Noble, Muamba, Milner, Walcott, Agbonlahor.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Spain - Sergio Asenjo
Spain’s teenage keeper played a huge role in his team’s draw against Germany, pulling off some great saves to ensure La Roja picked up a point from their opening fixture.
The Real Valladolid stopper will now come face-to-face with the likes of Theo Walcott and Gabriel Agbonlahor and should he manage another shut-out it may go a long way towards securing all three points for the Spanish.
England – Kieran Gibbs
The young Arsenal full-back has put in some excellent displays for England in recent weeks and after impressing against Finland he will be full of confidence for the game against the Spanish.
His pace down the flank coupled with his ability to supply decent delivery into the box means he is an excellent attacking outlet for Pearce’s side.
The young Gunner also possesses an eye for goal, as his recent brace against Azerbaijan proves, and he may be the man to watch in Gothenburg.
Despite decent results for both sides from their opening fixtures they will both be looking for an improved performance on Thursday night.
A win for England would secure Pearce’s men a place in the semi-final but they may be missing key players at the back which could cause problems.
Despite being shut out by Germany, Spain are a dangerous opponent but they have found goals hard to come by in recent games and may have to settle for another point.
Prediction: Spain 1-1 England
Gill Clark, Goal.com