Five players Tottenham Hotspur should sign this summer

Over the last couple of years Tottenham have had a key theme underpinning their transfer activity; value. They don’t shop for need necessarily, but if the value is right they will make the move. Hugo Lloris, Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson were hardly need fillers but all offered great value. The same can be said for Emmanuel Adebayor, Rafa van der Vaart and Scott Parker. They seem to have left the days where they would spend £15m on David Bentley well behind them. They have also recently moved on from their strategy of harvesting young English based players; the likes of Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker have all made their way to the first team from that phase. They could look to go down either of those routes:

Youssuf Mulumbu – West Brom

Youssuf Mulumbu

Scout Report A powerful, hard-working defensive midfielder, Mulumbu is good at breaking up the attacks of opponents. His agility and strength means that he is both good at intercepting and strong in the tackle. He has a wonderful enthusiasm for work and his selfless approach rubs off on his team-mates. He is tidy on the ball and rarely makes mistakes.

Where does he fit? Andre Villas-Boas has tended to deploy two deep midfielders to allow Bale a free license. Sandro is injury plagued and Scott Parker hasn’t reached the levels of a couple of seasons ago. Mulumbu is 26, experienced in the Premier League and can play straight away. He would be a valuable piece in the midfield.

How much? West Brom do their business efficiently so a bid of £6-7m would represent a good profit for them. It fits nicely in Spurs’ value range too. His contract expires in 2014 so it’s a similar situation to Dempsey.

Radja Nainggolan – Cagliari

Radja Nainggolan

Scout Report Nainggolan is a 24 year old Belgian midfield dynamo. A genuine all rounder, he is tough, energetic and composed on the ball. Having dropped deeper in to the midfield than he played in his youth, he is better using his aggression in his new deeper position. He is all action, gets in your face, takes the ball off you and then picks out a quality pass. Yet another Belgian superstar in the making.

Where does he fit? Spurs don’t really have anyone like him at the moment. He offers a bit more on the ball than Sandro and Parker and with some seasoning and experience could become a dominant presence.

How much? Cagliari are not in a strong enough financial position to resist good offers. Something like £12m would do it, which for a 24 year old potential superstar is very good value. His contract also expires in 2014 so the £12m is a discount on his true value. Spurs should pounce on him whilst they can.

Christian Eriksen – Ajax

Christian Eriksen

Scout Report A sublimely talented young man, Eriksen has been compared to no lesser than his idol Michael Laudrup. Possessing of all the finest attacking qualities, Eriksen is technically supreme. He has rapid feet and can receive and move the ball before the defender gets near him. He pops up with his share of goals and provides a supply line of opportunities to his strikers. He gets himself in to areas that are very difficult to defend. You can keep him quiet for 88 minutes and then he will do something magical to win a game. He’s like watching a Danish Andres Iniesta.

Where does he fit? Spurs have had some problems unlocking defences at times when their A game breaks down over the last couple of years. If Bale gets shut down they can look a bit listless. They have added Lewis Holtby to try and provide that but brining in Eriksen too would give them an amazing creative hub. If they can find a striker to take all the chances Eriksen, Holtby and Bale create they could work themselves towards being a serious Premier League dark horse.

How much? Another whose contract expires in 2014, reducing his true value, Eriksen could probably be acquired for around £15m which could prove to a monster snip. It’s about what they laid out to get Luka Modric, who was at a similar stage of his career.

Christian Benteke – Aston Villa

Christian Benteke

Scout Report Benteke is an absolute powerhouse of a young striker. That he has made such a dramatic impact playing in such an awful Aston Villa side is testament to his potential. He has pace, power and goals to offer. Dominant in the air and in the hold-up phase, he is a worthy target man and can only get better at just 22.

Where does he fit? Spurs need a striker. Adebayor has looked ineffective and Defoe blows too hot and cold for a title challenge. Benteke would give Spurs a completely different option, able to nod home crosses and race on to the tight passes that the creative players are able to feed him with. He could easily score 20+ goals with such good players around him considering what he has done at Villa.

How much? This would depend completely on whether or not Villa get relegated. If they do then he could probably be had for around £7m, but if they stay up they are in such dire financial straits that surely a bid in the £13m range would sorely tempt them to sell. Spurs could comfortably afford that if they make the Champions League.

Jackson Martinez – FC Porto

Jackson Martínez

Scout Report Martinez is the latest striker to attend the Porto finishing school and emerge with his reputation rapidly enhanced. He has already scored 23 goals in Portugal this season, which compares favourably with alumni Radamel Falcao and Hulk. He has pace and inventiveness to match his finishing abilities. When he gets in to a groove he can be impossible to stop.

Where does he fit? Tottenham love pace in attack and they need someone to take chances more ruthlessly. AVB could tell him to roam around the defensive line waiting to be put through on goal and not worry about involving himself in general play. The sight of Martinez and Bale hurtling at defences together would terrify opposition managers.

How much? Porto are a hard club to buy from so this probably wouldn’t be their priority. It depends if they sell anyone else, which would drive the price up, but if Spurs move quickly he could be gotten for £12-15m.

England vs France: The key battles in this Euro 2012 grudge-match

England have been drawn against old enemies France in Group D of Euro 2012, and the clash on June 11th will have a major bearing on each side’s chances of progression in the tournament. With a month to go before the nations do battle the Three Lions are slight favourites, but it should be a close encounter. With Sweden and Ukraine in the pool also, both teams will look to get an early advantage in the competition.

With the domestic campaigns drawing to a close in the Premier League and Ligue 1, Laurent Blanc and Roy Hodgson will have their squads for the tournament all but decided, with a few decisions potentially still to be made. Les Bleus coach has named a strong looking provisional squad, with a raft of English-based players included, whilst the West Brom man has revealed that he will name his contingent on Wednesday.

Despite the full tournament squads yet to be announced, the main players for both sides are known and will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the encounter. France have a good blend of young talent and experienced heads, and their strength lies in central midfield and in a couple of talented individual attackers. The battle for possession in the centre of the park will be a key element to deciding the outcome, with Blanc able to choose from Yohan Cabaye, Yann M’Vila, Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano in the heart of his midfield. Scott Parker will have a role to play in breaking up the French passing game, whilst the likes of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard will look to mix it with their opponents.

French matchwinners include skilful wingers Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa, whilst the goalt-hreat will be provided by Karim Benzema. England’s full-backs must monitor the widemen carefully, with a big responsibility falling on Kyle Walker, Micah Richards or Glen Johnson’s shoulders to shackle Bayern Munich superstar Ribery. The centre of the English defence will also be wary of giving Benzema space, as the Real Madrid man is one of Europe’s form strikers currently.

Going the other way, new boss Hodgson will be without his talismanic forward Wayne Rooney due to suspension, and has key decisions to make in attack. With Darren Bent still on the sidelines with injury and on the borderline of missing out, no other centre forwards shout out as sure things. Hodgson will consider the likes of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and maybe even Peter Crouch to lead his line, but the English attack will be limited due to Rooney’s absence.

The eventual England squad should have pace to burn however, with widemen Ashley Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon all with the necessary speed to harry the French defenders. There is also a case for Paul Scholes’ inclusion to add a bit of creativity to the side, but Hodgson will look to his wingers to provide the necessary penetration.

The game is sure to full of natural pride and passion, but England must compete with the technical abilities of the France side to get a result. The odd goal may well decide this game, but it should be an exciting and enthralling match.

Published – Ghana Soccernet

England and Euro 2012: Who will be in the squad, and how will they fair in Group D?

England interim manager Stuart Pearce has this week revealed that the nation’s squad for Euro 2012 will be named before the end of the Premier League campaign, whether a new permanent boss is in place or not. With the last game of the season on Sunday 13th May, it is reasonable to expect the successful and unsuccessful players to be unveiled a couple of days before this. With this date only two weeks away, who will be stepping out for the Three Lions in Ukraine and Poland?

Goalkeepers – Joe Hart is a shoe-in, and the Manchester City stopper is an outside shout to be the next national captain. Consistent, agile and assured, Hart is a real attribute to the home nation.

GK to go: Hart, Carson, Stockdale

GK to miss out: Ruddy

Defenders – John Terry’s inclusion or exclusion could well depend on the new boss, with the consideration of Rio Ferdinand also entering into the equation; the Chelsea centre half is to stand court for racially abusing the Manchester United man’s brother Anton. Other central defenders to be included should be Gary Cahill, Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott.

At left back Ashley Cole will travel, whilst Leighton Baines is currently injured but will recover in time. On the right, PFA Young Player of the Year Kyle Walker will expect to be included, as will seasoned international Glen Johnson. Micah Richards has been an outcast under Fabio Capello, but under-21 boss Pearce would surely select his former player, potentially to the detriment of the Liverpool man.

DF to go: Walker, Richards, Cahill, Terry, Lescott, Jones, Cole, Baines

DF to miss out: Ferdinand, King, Johnson, Dawson, Smalling

Midfielders – England will most likely play four across midfield, and this will be the most tightly-contested element of the squad. Scott Parker and Frank Lampard are almost certainties, Steven Gerrard hangs in the balance depending on fitness, Paul Scholes is an outside shout, whilst Tom Cleverley, Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere will miss out through injury.

On the flanks, Ashley Young will travel if he stays fit, as will Stewart Downing despite an inconsistent campaign. Aaron Lennon needs to get back to his best, Jordan Henderson looks unlikely whilst Arsenal team-mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may well be in direct competition for a place.

MF to go: Young, Downing, Barry, Parker, Lampard, Gerrard, Scholes, Walcott

MF to miss out: Wilshere, Rodwell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lennon, Henderson, Joe Cole, Cleverley, Carrick, Milner, A.Johnson

Strikers – Although Wayne Rooney will be suspended for the first two group games of the tournament, it will take a brave manager to leave out the Manchester United forward. Darren Bent faces a risk against time due to his knee injury, whilst Andy Carroll will need a strong end of season to convince the selectors. Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge should be included, whilst Jermain Defoe is a 50-50.

ST to go: Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge, Defoe

ST to miss out: Bent, Carroll, Crouch

Group Games

England vs France, June 11: Old enemies renew their rivalry in the Group D opener, and these two will be favourites to progress. Without Rooney England may lack direction in attack, and will need to be regimented to stave off the advances of Ribery, Benzema and Remy.

Prediction: 0-0

England vs Sweden, June 15: The Three Lions have suffered disappointment against the Scandinavian nation in international competitions in the past, and Sweden are a slightly unpredictable entity. Led by AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedes will be no pushover.

Prediction: 1-1

England vs Ukraine, June 19: With a tight group likely to go down to the wire, England will face co-hosts Ukraine in the last round of fixtures in what will be a test of their character and resolve. Rooney’s return will be a boost, but England must be at their best to quell a pumped-up opponent and crowd.

Prediction: 2-1 win

Published – Soccerlens

Chelsea vs Tottenham: The Blues’ traditional hex over the White Hart Lane club no longer apparent

Chelsea and Tottenham meet in the second FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday, with the London rivals’ fate this season tied in with that of their opponent. With one or the other set to miss out on a top four finish in the Premier League also, progression in the cup takes additional importance this season.

Chelsea have improved since the axing of Andre Villas Boas, with club man Roberto Di Matteo instilling confidence and a belief in the side. The Blues have made strides in the league to give them a chance of making the Champions League qualification places, and a memorable comeback against Napoli in Europe has set up a mouth-watering clash with Barcelona.

The main difference in Di Matteo’s approach is the respect and responsibility handed back to the club’s senior players. With the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole feeling devalued by the Portuguese coach’s squad rotation system, the Italian has made the old guard feel more valued, and this has paid off for him.

The Stamford Bridge club have the distraction of a Champions League date with the Spanish giants upcoming, and although the clash with Pep Guardiola’s men will be in the back of their minds, Spurs could capitalise on any lack of concentration. Chelsea have traditionally had something of a hex over their London neighbours, but the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in the league a couple of weeks ago, in which Harry Redknapp’s men dominated, will have given the White Hart Lane club confidence.

Tottenham have come unstuck slightly over the last couple of months, with an excellent start being counteracted by a poor second half to the season. Defeat against Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton could almost be understood given the difficulty of the opponent, but a loss to Norwich and draw with Stoke at home have the White Hart Lane faithful nervous.

Ahead of the game at Wembley, Spurs are still in fourth place but are level on points with Newcastle, and two ahead of Chelsea. With a five-point gap opening up to Arsenal in third, it is a safe bet to say that one of Sunday’s competitors will miss out on the top four. Spurs fans will look to win their first piece of silverware since their League Cup triumph in 2008, where they beat Chelsea in the final.

A couple of key matchups may well decide the outcome of what should be a close game. With Branislav Ivanovic suspended, the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will look to get at makeshift fullbacks and take advantage of possession down the flanks. Scott Parker and Frank Lampard will hope to be team-mates this summer at Euro 2012, but will go head-to-head in the battle to win possession and shield their back fours. Finally, second strikers Rafael van der Vaart and Juan Mata are the playmakers that can create chances that will ultimately win the match.

Published – Soccerlens

Tottenham: Review of the last five Premier League games

Tottenham will have been praying for the end of March after a difficult run of fixtures saw them collect only two points from their last five Premier League fixtures. Spurs were comfortably in third place at the start of the month and touted as potential title contenders, but find themselves in fourth place and in a battle for Champions League qualification at the end of it; here’s a recap of the last five games.

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2

The lowest point of a season full of highs, Tottenham’s capitulation against Arsenal in the North London derby was a throwback to the mediocre Spurs days of the recent past. A two-goal lead against a team that was low in confidence was spurned, due to defending too deep and resting on their laurels. The team and supporters will want to forget this fixture and hope it doesn’t impact the standings come the end of the season.

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 3

A positive first-half display against the English champions would have been rounded off by a goal, but with a lack of clinical finishing, Harry Redknapp’s men were put to the sword by the experience of United. Jermain Defoe came on to score a consolation, but the positives from this game lie with an aggresive start. Redknapp started to adopt three central midfielders instead of two after the Arsenal debacle the week before, which proved successful later in the month.

Everton 1 Tottenham 0

A game of two contrasting halves; Spurs were poor in the first 45 minutes before dominating the second half. Tottenham were lucky to only be one goal down at the interval, but looked much more assured in the second period. Could—and should—have scored to get something from the game; Goodison Park is starting to become a bit of a hoodoo for the north London club.

Tottenham 1 Stoke City 1

A game that the White Hart Lane faithful wanted to win but that Tottenham were very lucky not to lose. Stoke continue to prove themselves as a difficult opponent, at the Britannia or away from home, and Spurs struggled to deal with their physicality and direct approach. A last minute Rafael van der Vaart equaliser salvaged what could be a very important point.

Chelsea 0 Tottenham 0

By far the most positive performance and result of late. Tottenham have not won at Stamford Bridge in 22 years, and after a run of poor results and Chelsea’s rejuvenation under Roberto Di Matteo, entered the fixture as firm underdogs. However, an assured display saw the points shared and the five-point gap between the clubs maintained. Sandro and Scott Parker battled well, whilst William Gallas showcased his experience at the back. With good chances for Emmanuel Adebayor, Van der Vaart and Kyle Walker, Spurs were disappointed not to win the game, but would have taken a draw before-hand.

With a tough run of games concluded in March, Tottenham have played all of the Premier League’s top seven twice, and now have an easier run of games on paper. With Chelsea’s priorities split due to their likely progression to the Champions League semi-finals, and Arsenal still with a couple of tricky games, Redknapp’s men will look to push towards a third-placed finish with a strong run of form in April.

Published – Bleacher Report

Tottenham’s Future: The usual 4-4-2 or an attacking 4-5-1?

Harry Redknapp has recently tweaked his tactics slightly to incorporate an extra defensive midfielder in his line-up against fellow top four contenders. Instead of the usual 4-4-2 system, an extra combative midfielder has been installed to change the format to a 4-5-1, that turns to a 4-3-3 when Spurs are on the attack. This I feel has added extra balance to the side, but it will be interesting to see if Redknapp continues this approach against Swansea at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

This change in tactics and personnel have changed the roles of a number of players. The old 4-4-2 system saw Scott Parker and Luka Modric in the centre of the park, two wingers and two strikers. Against the better teams Tottenham started to get over-run, with Parker’s workload at times unmanageable. However, with either Sandro or Jake Livermore both more than adept at fitting into a three-man central midfield, it makes Tottenham a more difficult team to break down. Additionally, the idea is that with two battlers in front of the backline will hopefully free Modric to get forward a bit more and free the creative player slightly of defensive duties.

Moving forward, Emmanuel Adebayor’s position of frontman does not change, but Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon once he is fit will have to alter their roles slightly. With a three-man central midfield a side can become vulnerable on the flanks, so former left-back Bale and Van der Vaart or Lennon on the right will have to help out their respective full backs. The Dutch forward has previously indicated that he is not keen to play wide and wants to play centrally, but this system may suit both him and the team if he is willing to track back when needed; he did this well against Chelsea.

Finally, the main losers out of the change in tactics however are Jermain Defoe and Louis Saha. With Bale and Van der Vaart certainties to play when fit, there is space for only one out-and-out striker, which for the time being will be Adebayor. An extra midfielder cuts down the second forward’s time on the pitch, with Defoe in particular sure to be frustrated with lack of opportunities.

There is a case for Spurs continuing their three-man central midfield against Swansea, as the Welsh side are fearless away from home and have shown sleek passing this season. Sandro and Scott Parker together would cut down space for the likes Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allan, but with Tottenham in desperate need for three points Redknapp will be tempted to go back to 4-4-2 and play Saha instead.

Published – Bleacher Report

Tottenham and Manchester United have it all to play for at White Hart Lane

Second host third in the Premier League on Sunday, as Tottenham welcome Manchester United to White Hart Lane. With the business end of the season upon us, both clubs need points to wrap up a successful campaign, and a defeat would leave each respective team facing a considerable setback. Spurs have seen their lead over the chasing pack reduced in the race for a top four place, whilst United need to keep pace with cross-town rivals and current division leaders Manchester City.

Tottenham’s excellent form this season hit a massive speed bump last weekend, as a 5-2 north London derby defeat to arch enemies Arsenal brought the side back down to earth. Harry Redknapp’s team missed the chance to all-but-guarantee Champions League qualification, as if they had beaten Arsenal a lead of 13 points between the rivals would have been opened. However, the loss means that the gap between Spurs and both the Gunners and Chelsea is down to seven points, and the White Hart Lane men’s confidence may have been shook.

Spurs’ showing at the Emirates Stadium was disappointing to say the least, as the side in white threw away a two-goal lead and looked a shadow of the team that has enthralled and captivated fans this term. Tottenham’s defence last Sunday was questionable at best, and will need to improve if they are to avoid consecutive defeats. Ledley King was not his usual assured self last weekend, and Redknapp will need to organise his troops to withstand the advances of the champions in this outing.

Redknapp admitted that his team selection was flawed in the derby, and Rafael van der Vaart needs to start this game, either as a second striker or on the right side of midfield. In attack Emmanuel Adebayor was isolated for large portions of the game at the Emirates, and to stand more of a chance this time round the likes of Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart must get closer to the Togolese marksman.

United are notorious for kicking into top gear at this time of the season, but as yet Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have not shown the performances we are accustomed to. A two-point gap at the top means the title race may well go down to the wire, but the game between the Manchester sides at the Etihad Stadium at the end of April could be the decider.

Ryan Giggs scored an injury-time winner against Norwich at Carrow Road last Sunday to mark his 900th appearance for the Red Devils, but it was widely acknowledged that the champions were lucky to escape with all three points against the newcomers. Wayne Rooney did not play against the Canaries and similarly missed England’s international friendly with Netherlands on Wednesday; United just do not look the same attacking force without his invention and energy, and the visitors’ potency going forward at the weekend will depend on the striker’s late fitness test.

The battle in the centre of the park will play a key part in deciding the eventual victor also, with both clubs having midfielders unavailable. Spurs will be without Scott Parker for the match-up, after the newly-appointed England captain was sent off to compound Tottenham’s misery against Arsenal, which will put an added weight of expectation on Sandro to fill the role of shield in front of the back four. Veterans Giggs and Paul Scholes continue to play a pivotal role for the Old Trafford side despite their age, and will look to use all their experience to steer their side home in the absence of Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher.

This should be an exciting spectacle for the neutral, but both sets of fans will know the importance of the game. United have had the better of the London club in recent meetings, so this fixture will be a real tester to see just how far Harry Redknapp’s men have come.

Published – Soccerlens

The John Terry controversies – a complete list

John Terry on his day is one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and certainly an important player for Chelsea and England.

However, the 31-year-old is in danger of missing out on Euro 2012, after being stripped of his nation’s captaincy due to the ongoing allegations of racism against the Barking-born man. This, for sure, is not the first controversy to blight Terry’s career, as the following rap sheet shows.

  • Fined two weeks wages for drunkenly mocking American tourists in Heathrow Airport in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
  • Charged with assault and affray after a confrontation with a nightclub bouncer in January 2002, Terry was suspended from England duty and subsequently missed out on the 2002 World Cup. He was later cleared of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, unlawful wounding, possessing a bottle as an offensive weapon and affray.
  • In February 2002 Terry was caught on CCTV urinating into a beer glass and dropping it on the floor of an Essex nightclub.
  • Fined £60 for parking his Bentley in a disabled bay.
  • In 2004, Terry was reported to have gambled up to £40,000 a week on horse and dog racing with Wayne Bridge and Scott Parker.
  • Sent off against Tottenham in November 2006 at White Hart Lane, and accused of racially abusing Ledley King. Questioned the integrity of referee Graham Poll, and was later fined £10,000 for inappropriate conduct.
  • Before marrying Toni Poole in 2007, admitted to cheating on his partner up to eight times. Jenny Barker, 17, claims that Terry cheated on Poole with her in a public car park.
  • Investigated by Chelsea and the FA for reportedly accepting a £10,000 bribe to show a reporter around the London club’s training ground without permission in 2009.
  • In 2009 the centre back’s father Ted Terry was filmed allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover reporter, months after his mother, Sue, and mother-in-law had been cautioned for shoplifting.
  • In January 2010 Terry was alleged to have had a four-month affair with Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel. Bridge was deemed as one of Terry’s best friends, and Perroncel was the mother of the left back’s child. Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the England captaincy due to the scandal, handing it to Rio Ferdinand.
  • Accused of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in a 1-0 defeat for Chelsea at Loftus Road in October 2011. Investigated by the FA and police, Terry will stand trial in July 2012. Stripped of his country’s captaincy for the second time.

Terry may well look back at the above list with shame and regret once his playing days are over, as the constant controversies in his life have taken away from his ability on the pitch.

With England producing some exciting young defenders in recent times, Euro 2012 could be Terry’s last swansong at a major international tournament, but his involvement is now not assured due to his July court date.

Published – Soccerlens

England vs Bulgaria: Three Points A Must For Fabio Capello’s Men

England continue their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign this week with fixtures against Bulgaria and Wales promising to give the fans a better idea of the nation’s chances of competing in Poland and Ukraine next year. With Fabio Capello’s men locked at the top of Group G on 11 points with Montenegro and an away day in Podgorica still to come, the Three Lions can ill-afford many more slip-ups.

The Italian coach has selected a number of promising youngsters in his squad for the match in Sofia, and it will be interesting to see whether the likes of Manchester United pairing Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley are trusted to start the match. Chris Smalling has impressed the former Real Madrid coach thus far this term, and should also pick up his international debut at right back. With no Rio Ferdinand to call upon, it will be a toss up between Jones, Lescott and Cahill to who partners skipper John Terry in the heart of the English rearguard.

In attack Wayne Rooney will harbour the responsibility of getting the goals to win the match, and the United striker has started the season in blistering form, with a hat-trick against Arsenal last Sunday ensuring the 25-year-old goes into the game full of confidence. Darren Bent is an injury concern so Andy Carroll may accompany the former Everton man up front.

Bulgaria were put to the sword at Wembley in the return fixture back in September 2010, with Jermain Defoe scoring three in a comfortable 4-0 win. The away match will be no walk in the park however, as the luxury and familiarity of Wembley will be traded in for the hostility of the Stadion Vasil Levski.

The home side no longer have all-time top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov to call upon, who quit the international set-up back in May 2010, but despite this Bulgaria will have some strong players on show come Friday. Stiliyan Petrov will be a familiar face for the away midfield, and the likes of Scott Parker or Gareth Barry will need to get close to the Aston Villa midfielder, who has the ability to shoot from distance or create chances for others. Former Manchester City forward Valeri Bojinov has not been selected in the squad, but Bolton’s Martin Petrov may feature.

The match will be given an extra bite by the fact that the home coach Lothar Matthaus has been vocal in the media this week and will motivate his players to get three points on Friday. The former Germany international got the better of England in his playing days, and will look to replicate this in his managerial tenure, despite the fact that Bulgaria are almost assured of missing out on Euro 2012.

A win would go far to alleviating fears of a do or die game in Montenegro next month, a draw is not ideal but would be acceptable and a loss would put the nation’s chances of competing in the European Championships in jeopardy. Expect a hostile reception from a passionate home faithful, and Bulgaria to come out of the blocks quickly, but if England can weather an early storm they should have the players and the experience to see them home.

Published – http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/opinion/85363/england-vs-bulgaria-three-points-a-must-for-fabio-capellos-men.html

%d bloggers like this: