Ukraine vs. England: Key Battles to Watch for in Kiev

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Ukraine vs. England: Key Battles to Watch for in Kiev
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

England travel to Ukraine on Tuesday for what should prove to be the pivotal clash of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

While they sit top of Group H on 15 points, Roy Hodgson's side are precariously placed with both Montenegro (15 points) and Ukraine (14 points) breathing down their necks.

Win or even draw and the Three Lions will feel far more comfortable about their prospects. Defeat, however, would leave them struggling to earn an automatic spot at World Cup 2014.

Here's a look at a few battles likely to prove decisive to Tuesday's outcome.

 

Yevhen Konoplyanka vs. Kyle Walker

England fans will remember Yevhen Konoplyanka's stunning goal in the 1-1 draw at Wembley last September. The right-footed winger gave Glen Johnson plenty to think about during that game, constantly looking to cut in and shoot.

This time he's likely to face Kyle Walker at right-back, and he will be keen to expose the Spurs defender one-on-one, especially if Theo Walcott is slow to track back.

England may remain compact in defence, but any time Walker's caught charging forward, expect Ukraine to move toward's Konoplyanka's channel upon regaining possession. Suppressing him will be high on the visitors' list of priorities.

 

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Rickie Lambert vs. Yevhen Khacheridi

Rickie Lambert's seamless transition to international football has been vital for England, given their growing list of injuries and an alarming lack of resources up front.

With Ukraine playing at home, the visitors may experience sustained periods under the cosh on Tuesday, in what should be an intimidating atmosphere.

Lambert's hold-up play will be just as crucial as his scoring touch and he will look to drop off the centre-backs, avoid Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, and keep the ball for the likes of Walcott and Jack Wilshere to surge past with.

 

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Joe Hart vs. Ukraine's front line

Having thumped nine past a hapless San Marinoone more than England managed—Ukraine's attackers will be brimming with confidence, eager to take pot shots at goal whenever possible.

In complete contrast, Joe Hart has endured a wretched spell of form for both club and country, unable to stem a recurrent run of gaffes.

This would be a handy time to rediscover his consistent best, with England in major trouble should he produce another error-strewn showing.

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