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England vs. Lithuania: Tactical Preview of Euro 2016 Qualifier

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 26, 2015

ENFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 26:  Harry Kane of England in action during an England training session ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Enfield Training Centre on March 26, 2015 in Enfield, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

England resume their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign on Friday by welcoming Lithuania to Wembley. They'll be looking to continue their perfect record in the competition thus far, having won all four games.

Let's take a look at how the Three Lions have shaped up so far post-World Cup in preparation for this qualifier and across the continent thus far.

England Injuries

England have been beset by injuries recently, with Roy Hodgson's first squad in over three months ripped to the seams by ailments and dropouts.

According to BBC Sport, Fraser Forster is out for a while due to knee surgery, and Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Luke Shaw have all pulled out already.

The boss has had to add two additional goalkeepers to the squad (after originally calling up only 24 men) plus Ryan Mason and Danny Rose. Then Rose got injured and dropped out too.

Danny Rose has withdrawn from the England squad with hip and hamstring injuries. More to follow.

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 25, 2015

Pre-existing injuries include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere, meaning a shallow national pool has lost an awful lot of water. 

Refresh: England Post-World Cup

Hodgson has settled on a midfield diamond out of a 4-4-2, believing it enhances time of possession of the ball, allows greater potency in attack and makes the most of the peripherals in the side. He's right; it does.

Rooney has the ability to play as a second striker or as a No. 9 dovetailing with a partner; it's the perfect scenario for his skill set.

The midfield is built with numbers, and that somewhat masks a lack of world-class quality. With no wingers, England's strong full-backs have license to roam, and Raheem Sterling playing as a No. 10 is ideal given he is, arguably, the country's best player already.

Credit: ITV Sport

Against Switzerland, who focus on the wide areas due to their strong personnel there, the diamond spread wide into a front three, with Rooney and Danny Welbeck engaging their full-backs high up and becoming temporary wingers. Sterling pushed up to fill the gap, and, in essence, the diamond converted to a 4-3-3.

In Nathaniel Clyne, Hodgson finally has the right-back he needs to play this inherently narrow system (on the ball). It's the perfect final piece to the puzzle.

What's Needed vs. Lithuania

England have played some poor sides in this qualifying campaign so far. Lithuania are not a household name. They are not the walkovers San Marino are, but they are considerably weaker than the Three Lions.

A casual fan would struggle to recognise a single player in their squad, and it speaks volumes that Simonas Stankevicius—a 19-year-old striker in the ranks at Leicester City, who has not been seen this season—already has seven international caps.

They played cautiously and deep against Switzerland and held them for just over 60 minutes before crumbling. They'll do the same at Wembley, and for that reason, England don't need to bother with the diamond.

Predicted XI.
Predicted XI.@stighefootball

Width is important against the weaker sides who sit in, and being able to stretch the pitch horizontally and hit the byline becomes the key to victory. Wingers, therefore, should be played in a base 4-4-2 set. It's a shame Lallana is injured; he excels in playing against tight teams and performing on the half-turn near the box.

Theo Walcott or James Milner would be perfect for the right side, while Sterling can slot in on the left. Rooney plus one (likely Harry Kane) up front will give England an extra body in the box to sweep home chances—a much-needed outlet when playing games such as this.

Another key will be the full-backs interchanging and overlapping with the wingers, and Hodgson knows he has a host of players capable of doing that to great effect. It's about taking the game back to basics, away from the intricacies of the diamond, and getting the job done.

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