England face two real tests over the next few days. First up is a trip to Berlin to face current World Champions Germany later today, who will be eager to show Europe they mean business. Germany will also be looking to make amends for a couple of underwhelming performances and results, most recently losing to France in November in a night overshadowed by the tragic events in Paris.
England will then face the Netherlands on Tuesday at Wembley. Holland will be looking to bounce back from their failure to qualify for this year’s tournament. Despite their bad form they will definitely still provide a test for Roy’s boys and have enough quality to hurt England.
So what are we hoping to learn from these two fixtures?
Will Roy mix it up?
We are likely to see debuts for Danny Rose and Danny Drinkwater in the upcoming fixtures, which is great, both players are in fantastic form and have contributed to the fact their respective clubs are currently sat in the top two spaces of the Premier League table. Having said this, is this enough change? When you look at this current season in the Premier League, does Roy still need to rely on some of his old guard playing at underachieving big clubs?
It is sad to see the likes of Gary Cahill, James Milner and Theo Walcott walk in to the team when some exciting talent such as Aaron Creswell, Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard have been completely overlooked. Having said this, Hodgson has to find the right balance of experience and potential. I’m just hoping Rose and Drinkwater get a fair crack of the whip, whilst Dele Alli is given a further chance to shine.
What To Do With Vardy
England’s attacking options are likely to give Roy a headache with previously favoured strikers Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck returning to fitness. Harry Kane is likely to lead the line as he is England’s best fit for the lone striker role and his brace against Bournemouth at the weekend almost certainly cemented his place in the starting eleven.
This leaves the question of how to utilise Jamie Vardy. The Leicester frontman has been in blistering form this season and remains second on the list of top scorers in the Premier League behind Kane. Although the goals have slowed down for the ‘rags to riches’ striker he has still been a key part of Leicester’s title bid, providing an assist for Riyad Mahrez last weekend.
With the form of Kane and the withdrawal of Raheem Sterling, it looks likely that Vardy will have to settle for a place out wide if he is to start on Saturday.
Is Jack Butland a contender for the number one shirt?
Jack Butland’s form for Stoke city this season has definitely increased the pressure on Joe Hart for England’s number one jersey and he should get an opportunity to make a case for himself this week.
Joe Hart withdrew from the squad for the two fixtures after suffering an injury in this Sunday’s Manchester derby. He sustained an injury to his calf when dealing with a back pass from teammate Martin Demichelis which could sideline him for up to a month. This opens the door for Butland, 23, to start a couple of games for England and show he’s up to the challenge.
Are we going to know our best back four?
Places are still up for grabs in the England back four. It is more than likely that the centre back pairing will be Chris Smalling and John Stones due to their good form this season. Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka remain in the squad as options in defence despite difficult seasons for the experienced pair. Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann and Tottenham’s Eric Dier could both also be options at centre back.
As for the full back positions Kyle Walker’s impressive form has seen him recalled to the squad and it will be interesting to see if he can displace Nathanial Clyne, personally I’d like to see them play a game each. The left-back position is also interesting, Danny Rose is in fine form and likely to make his debut with Bertrand on the bench. However Luke Shaw will be hoping to reclaim his place in the squad when he returns to full fitness, after suffering a broken leg against PSV earlier in the season. Leighton Baines and Aaron Cresswell are also in contention this summer.
Finally, what does this all mean for Wayne Rooney?
Roy Hodgson wants to take Rooney this summer if he recovers in time from his knee injury, but with Kane and Vardy in form and with the resurgence of Roy’s favourites Welbeck and Sturridge, where will the skipper fit in to Hodgson’s plans? It seems for the first time since he burst on to the scene that we have enough legitimate fire power to not have to rely on Wayne Rooney, but as captain of the national team it would seem he still has a role to play. Roy Hodgson has a decision to make and it might not be an easy one.