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England vs. Ukraine: Key Battles to Watch in World Cup Qualifier

Karl MatchettFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2016

England vs. Ukraine: Key Battles to Watch in World Cup Qualifier

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    England face Ukraine for the second time in a matter of months on Tuesday, this time in a World Cup qualifying match for the 2014 finals in Brazil.

    After a 5-0 win in Moldova, England are top of the group early on, with Ukraine not having started their campaign yet.

    This will be a far more demanding test of England's attacking prowess and defensive organisation, which was at times lacking against the Moldovans, than the first game and yet, in front of their home crowd, Roy Hodgson's men will be expected to take another three points.

    Here are five key match-ups for the game which could shape the outcome.

Jermain Defoe vs Andriy Pyatov

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    Andriy Pyatov is Ukraine's first choice goalkeeper and at 28 years of age has plenty of experience behind him. He also has, however, a history of flapping at high balls and making mistakes behind him.

    England will create a few chances on goal, at least, and they will likely be looking to test the talented, if eccentric, stopper early on if possible.

    With Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney both absent and injured, Jermain Defoe is England's senior striker with 50 caps to his name and should start up front again. The Spurs forward should be looking to get a few early strikes in on goal, especially first time efforts which are low to the ground.

Leighton Baines vs. Andriy Yarmolenko

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    Another of England's first choice XI is missing through injury in left-back Ashley Cole, with Everton's Leighton Baines again set to deputise. A first international goal against Moldova by way of a deflected free kick should boost his confidence ahead of his biggest match yet at international level.

    Andriy Yarmolenko is a strong, fast winger for Ukraine who, though left footed, plays on the right wing and will look to get forward with the ball at every opportunity. He is happy to go down the line, but of course cutting infield onto his stronger left foot—and the fact he plays centrally at club level—means this will also be a dangerous route to goal that Baines will have to deal with.

Joleon Lescott vs. Marko Devic

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    The retirement of Andriy Shevchenko and the non-inclusion of other experienced Ukraine forwards Artem Milevskiy and Andrei Voronin leaves Marko Devic as the one experienced forward left in the squad, and he has just two goals in 25 caps.

    His last goal for the Ukraine came 10 months ago and he has never scored in a competitive fixture.

    Joleon Lescott will be England's most experienced available centre back and will probably be partnered by Gary Cahill. Lescott had a marvellous season last year and needs to be at his best to hold down a regular spot for England, with the Chelsea duo Cahill and John Terry certain to be in with a chance of re-establishing their partnership otherwise.

Tom Cleverley vs. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

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    Wearing the No.10 shirt for England is a big job.

    Tom Cleverley was handed the role against Moldova and stands a good chance of retaining it for the second match of this week, playing just off the lone striker Defoe in an attack-minded midfield.

    If he takes up a similar position against Ukraine he will have somewhat less space to operate in than against Moldova, with the wily and rugged Anatoliy Tymoshchuk the Ukraine holding midfielder more than ready and willing to snap into a few tackles.

    Tymoshchuk will also be the starting point for plenty of Ukraine's build up play, laying the ball out wide for Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka to attack with.

    Cleverley will be expected to keep tight to him when England are not in possession and close down the anchor, preventing any easy routes out of defence for the away side.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vs. Yevhen Selin

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    A little bit of a gamble as to who starts right-back for Ukraine, but Yevhen Selin is certainly an option. He more commonly plays from the left side but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to start left wing for England, where he will cut inside, it will not be a big surprise to see Selin start on the right to combat that threat.

    Oxlade-Chamberlain is a strong and powerful, yet lithe and tricky, attacking midfielder who will play a quick give-and-go just as soon as use his own skill to beat a man.

    England will look to their wide midfielders to exploit quick turnovers of possession and create scoring chances.

    Plus, for whoever does play right-back for Ukraine, there will be the added bonus of Raheem Sterling to possibly deal with if he makes his debut later on in the game.


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