England vs Russia by Luke
Even though neither of the sides can be considered as hosts, we can freely say that the English team will have much better support on the stadium this time. England comes into this competition coming from brilliant qualifications, having great goal difference 31:3 and ten victories out of ten matches. They were absolutely dominant from the first game and continued with similar performances during the friendly matches.
They have won five matches and drew in only two, away to Spain and at home against Netherlands. During last three friendly matches, the team did decently well against Turkey, Australia and Portugal, reaching all three victories. At the same time, their national coach Hodgson got a better view in the current situation. Many consider them as one of the strongest favorites to lift the title, but it's still to be seen how the team will react and deal with the pressure.
However, in case players like Vardy and Kane continue with their great goal scoring form, it will be hard to see anyone stopping them now. Left back Ryan Bertrand trained alone in previous sessions, trying to recover from a knock received in the game against Portugal. The game will probably come too soon for him, while defender Chris Smalling also had some problems, but should be ready to start in the opener here.
Unlike the English side, Russia struggled a lot in the qualifications and managed to secure their position only in the finish of the competition, with four victories in the row. In the end, they reached the second position and directly qualified, with the coach Leonid Slutsky probably having the biggest credit for it, since he came in the worst possible moment to replace Fabio Capello after a poor start.
He is leading CSKA Moscow with great success and took over the national team near the end of qualifications leading them to these four victories. However, in last few friendly matches, the Russians have showed number of weaknesses, winning only one out of five matches, having also a draw and three defeats. In the meantime, the team was plagued with numerous injuries and there's no doubt that Slutsky will have very difficult task.
One month before it became known that the Russians will be playing without defender Zhirkov and winger Cheryshev, while midfielders Dzagoev and Denisov had to cancel due injuries bit later. With these players out, their chances are significantly reduced now. They might play in a bit more offensive 4-3-3 formation with Kokorin and Smolov on the wings and Dzyuba as number nine.
- England have scored at least 2 goals in their last 7 matches (EURO Cup).
- Russia have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 matches (EURO Cup).
Russia is always unpleasant opponent even without these four players, especially at such big events. My first betting choice will remain with goals, since they both have powerful attacks, while England does stand out as a bit more than slight favorite.