England, Wales and Scotland continue their preparations for Euro 2020 on Wednesday when they play warm-up friendlies.
With the delayed tournament now just over a week away, the home nations who have qualified step up their preparations for the Euros with the Three Lions hosting Austria in Middlesbrough, while Scotland face the Netherlands in Portugal and Wales go to Nice to take on world champions France.
In the build-up to major tournaments, countries often opt for friendlies against so-called lesser opposition in an attempt to get a morale-boosting big win under their belts heading into the competition for real, but Wales and Scotland face stiff tasks against two of the sides fancied to do well in Euro 2020.
Page’s men Face Difficult Task in Nice
Rob Page’s side, in particular, are likely to be up against it with France boasting a star-studded squad containing the likes of Paris Saint-Germain frontman Kylian Mbappe, Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante and Manchester United star Paul Pogba, while Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema is back in the international fold following a six-year absence.
It’s expected all three games will see the respective managers field a mix of regular starters and players on the fringes with Page admitting he will carefully manage the workload of his squad in order to make sure they are in optimum shape for their Group B opener against Switzerland on June 12.
Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey has had his injury troubles this season but may feature in Nice, but Tottenham defender Ben Davies is unlikely to be involved although he hopes to be ready to take on the Swiss.
Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen has also recently declared himself fit, while Chelsea starlet Ethan Ampadu has recovered from a pelvic injury.
Wales have only beaten France once in their history, way back in 1982, and the five previous meetings between them have all been friendlies, with Les Bleus winning the most recent clash 2-0 in Paris in November 2017. Wales appear to have a squad short on top quality, aside from Gareth Bale and the aformentioned Ramsey.
Page has confirmed he will not select his strongest side from the start and even if France opt to experiment as well, they should still be good enough for a comfortable win. A home victory to nil, on offer at
Scotland Back Amongst Elite
The Scots will be desperate to prove they belong at this elite international level after finally qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since 1998 but they too are expected to be on the end of a defeat in their first warm-up game when they take on the Netherlands in the Algarve.
Frank De Boer’s side, who can be backed at
1/2 to win, hammered Gibraltar 7-0 in their most recent game and have won four of their last five, scoring 16 goals in total, in comparison to just one win in the last five for Steve Clarke’s side – a 4-0 success over minnows San Marino.
John Fleck is absent after he recently tested positive for coronavirus but Ryan Fraser could play for the first time since March after recovering from injury.
Three Lions Under Strength for Austria Clash
Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium is the venue for both of England’s warm-up games and it’s likely to be an under-strength Three Lions that takes on an Austria side who are also preparing for the tournament after qualifying behind Poland in Group G.
Gareth Southgate named his 26-man squad on Tuesday but will not use any of the Chelsea and Manchester City players who were involved in the Champions League final on Saturday, while those who played in the Europa League final for Manchester United last week are unlikely to play either.
Therefore, the likes of Tyrone Mings, Kalvin Phillips, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bukayo Saka could all start, while Southgate has already confirmed Jesse Lingard will start despite being left out of the final squad for the tournament. Jadon Sancho has been ruled out through illness.
Austria, who are ranked 23rd in the world, 19 places behind England, have been inconsistent of late, mixing wins over Northern Ireland and Faroe Islands with draws against Scotland and Norway and a disappointing 4-0 home defeat last time out against Denmark.
Despite clearly being under strength, England should still have enough to pick up a fifth win on the trot, although backing Austria to score as well could pay off at
*All odds correct at time of writing