Euro 2016 fervor will pick-up momentum as England will begin preparations this weekend with the first of their three final warm-up games. All eyes will be on players hoping to book their ticket to France as England welcome Turkey at Old Trafford on Sunday, 22nd May.
Roy Hodgson has already named his initial squad of 26 players and would be looking at these games to squeeze out the unlucky three. The squad was largely on expected lines barring the surprise call-up to teenage striker Marcus Rashford and the omission of Theo Walcott.
Rashford and his Manchester United team-mates Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling would miss this game owing to their club engagements – as United play the FA Cup final on Saturday. Liverpool could also be without representation as Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Milner and Daniel Sturridge should be tired from their exertions in the Europa League final midweek.
That leaves the focus solely on the blue-eyed strikers of the season – Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. There is pressure already from all quarters on Hodgson to include these two ahead of Rooney and if they impress against Turkey, it could add wind to the sails of those suggestions. There is depth in midfield too with Danny Drinkwater, Eric Dier and Fabien Delph eager to grab the chance lest risk being cut out from the final squad for Euros. And of course, fit-again Jack Wilshere will hope to grab some attention from the middle of the park.
Turkey are an ideal preparation for England, considering their silent rise up the FIFA World rankings. They are currently ranked 13 and just three places below their hosts. Having qualified from a tough group behind the Czech Republic and Iceland, Turkey would be confident of surprising the Three Lions. Especially because they have upset the Netherlands and went unbeaten in their eight qualifiers since October 2014.
The Turks may not have scored even a single goal in their ten previous encounters against England but do not discount the quality of their squad. The Fatih Terim coached side boasts of the creative midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu of Bayer Leverkusen and the rock-solid Arda Turan of Barcelona. These two would be the prime threats for England to maintain their aggregate of 31-0 against Turkey in ten previous matches.
England are currently ranked 10 in FIFA World Rankings and have shown glimpses of their form in the qualifiers. They have won six of their last eight matches losing only to Spain and the Netherlands in friendlies. Having managed five clean sheets in their past eight matches, England would be looking forward to dish another commanding performance against the Turks.
Turkey carry some commending form of their own into this fixture staying unbeaten in their last eight matches. Beating Sweden and Austria in the recent international friendlies should give them confidence ahead of the weekend match. Not known to be heavy scorers, Turkey nevertheless have scored in 11 of their previous 12 international matches. On current form, they should break the duck against England.
Key players and team news
England will miss a lot of key players because of their participation in Europa League and FA Cup finals. But there is a lot of depth and competition in this squad that their absence is a blessing in disguise for many England hopefuls. Kane is fresh off winning the ‘Golden Boot’ award in Premier League and would be eager to carry his club form to international level. And with Rooney absence for the game, the Tottenham forward could lead the line and revel in the role.
For a nation that prides itself on being a stubborn team, Turkey would be embarrassed by their record of scoring no goals against England in ten previous encounters. Breaking that duck would depend on the creative skills of Calhanoglu, especially in dead-ball situations. Another player to watch out would be Burak Yilmaz who would look to take advantage of Calhanoglu’s runs.
Looking at the history of this fixture, one would be tempted to put money on an England win to nil. Kane will be itching to continue his goal-scoring form which makes him an ideal bet to score anytime in the game.
Turkey may not have performed admirably against England in the past but their recent performances suggest that the turnaround in fortunes is just around the corner. As such, backing them to score in the game is not an outrageous option.
Friendlies often are used to test the squad especially if they come so close to a major tournament. Expect both the sides to score goals and not to gift even an inch to the opponent.