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A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

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Spain v France Preview

World champions Spain continue the defence of their UEFA EURO 2012 crown tonight when they take on France in a mouth-watering quarter-final clash at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

Vicente del Bosque’s La Roja have not been defeated in a competitive match since being shocked by Switzerland in the group stages on their way to winning the 2010 World Cup. Meanwhile, Laurent Blanc’s Les Bleus have lost just once, against Sweden in their last match of Euro 2012’s group stages, in 24 games. It therefore promises to be a closely-fought encounter in Donetsk and the winner will go through to face Portugal in the semi-finals.

Both France, 1998 world champions and 2000 kings of Europe, and Spain are two of the highest praised nations over the past 14 years of international football. But there is also an old score to settle, with Spain still stinging from being mugged by a Zinedine Zidane-inspired France in the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup.

TEAM NEWS

Spain

Spain, who lost Carles Puyol and David Villa before Euro 2012 to injury, have no major new fitness concerns. Alvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Torres, Xabi Alonso – who will win his 100th cap if he plays – and Javi Martinez are all a booking away from a suspension.

France

France pair Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery sat out Wednesday’s training session due to “minor problems”. It remains to be seen whether Yohan Cabaye will return after the Newcastle United star missed the Sweden defeat with a thigh problem.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 30
Spain Wins – 13
Draws – 6
France Wins – 11

FORM GUIDE

Spain – WWDWW
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Croatia 0-1 Spain
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 4-0 Ireland
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
03-Jun-12 – Friendly – Spain 1-0 China
30-May-12 – Friendly – Spain 4-1 South Korea

France – LWDWW
19-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Sweden 2-0 France
15-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Ukraine 0-2 France
11-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – France 1-1 England
05-Jun-12 – Friendly – France 4-0 Estonia
31-May-12 – Friendly – France 2-0 Serbia

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Xavi (Spain)
The pass master of the Spanish side, the Barcelona playmaker has yet to truly come alive at the UEFA EURO 2012 after being largely stiffled by defensive opponents. But against a France side that likes to play football, Xavi could be the key and finally be able to weave his magic and bring his team back to form.

Andres Iniesta (Spain)
The Barcelona playmaker has been in fine form in the competition, and has been the main driving force behind a Spanish side without David Villa. Deployed on the left side of a 3-man attack, the 28-year-old frequently beats defenders and provides cutting passes, making him a fearful threat for defenders. Mathieu Debuchy, who is still learning his trade at the international level, could well be troubled by Iniesta.

Hugo Lloris (France)
The French skipper has had very little to do in terms of saves made in the tournament so far but thats going to change against Spain today. The Spanish will come and keep the ball and test the keeper at numerous occasions. The Lyon stopper will have to be at his very best to deny the defending champions from scoring an early goal.

Franck Ribery (France)
With Karim Benzema not able to find the back of the net with his national side, it could be down to the Bayern Munich winger to help the French beat Spain and claim a semi-final spot against Portugal, having claimed 10 goals during his international career and 16 this season for the German giants in all competitions last season.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Spain (4-3-3): Iker Casillas (C); Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergi Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta.

The world and European champions are expected to lineup in the same 4-3-3 formation that helped them top their group. There won’t be much changes to side that defeated Croatia in the final game, maybe just one with Fabregas coming in for Fernando Torres. The Chelsea striker was disappointing against a tough Croatia side, while Fabregas on the other hand, provided the chipped ball that lead to Jesus Navas’ winner. The 6-man midfield worked well against Italy in the opening group game and will hopefully work well again today.

France (4-2-3-1): Hugo Lloris (C); Mathieu Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny, Adil Rami, Gael Clichy; Yohan Cabaye, Yann M’Vila; Jeremy Menez, Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery; Karim Benzema.

Laurent Blanc’s men are expected to play with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has served them very well in past, but with a few changes. Arsenal’s Koscielny is expected to get his first start of the tournament in the heart of the defence alongside Adil Rami, in place of the suspended Philippe Mexes. Yohan Cabaye will also come in the side for Alou Diarra after sitting out of the Sweden defeat. Jeremy Menez is also expected to come in for the ineffective Hatem Ben Arfa, with the later seemed to be happy blasting shot over goal rather than passing to his teammates and creating chances.

MATCH ODDS

Spain 8/11 Draw 5/2 France 4/1

PREDICTION

Spain are the bookies favourites to win this game but it’s not going to be an easy on for the defending champions. Spain have a lot of individual talent in their squad but they haven’t performed their best as a team in the tournament so far and this could be the right time to do so against a not so strong French side, who were easily beaten by Sweden the other day. Spain will play their possession football and mostly in the opposition’s half, while France on the other hand, will look to park the bus in front of the goal and hit the Spaniards on the counter. Defending the whole game looks tough against a Spain side who have a good habit of winning tight games even when they aren’t playing their best.

Predicted Score – Spain 1-0 France

France 1-1 England – Player Ratings

Both Joleon Lescott and Samir Nasri were on target for their respective teams as England and France battled out to a 1-1 draw. Here, we take a look at how the players fared at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on Monday.

FRANCE

Hugo Lloris – 6
With England having just one attempt on goal, he was largely untrouble. He was dominant in his own penalty area and managed to deal with England’s crosses easily. Joleon Lescott’s header from a Steven Gerrard did beat him in the first half, but he had no chance to stop it.

Matthieu Debuchy – 7.5
Debuchy was one of France’s star for this match. He was very dangerous making his overlapping runs and going forward, at the same time he did his defensive duties very well. He coped well with the threat of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and kept him at bay for the whole game, and then later also dealt well with Ashley Young.

Philippe Mexes – 6
Was lucky Welbeck didn’t get many chances to take on the French defence. It’s very well known that Mexes lacks pace and if Rooney was playing the AC Milan defender could have been in huge trouble. Made an important clearance from a James Milner cross towards the end of the game.

Adil Rami – 6
There was some discussion at the start of the match whether Rami should play or Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny, but the Valencia man proved his doubters wrong as he put in a solid display in the center of the defence. Like Mexes, he was largely untroubled by the English attack for most of the game.

Patrice Evra – 6.5
Gave away the needless foul which lead to Lescott’s opener from the resulting Gerrard freekick. Otherwise the Manchester United left back had a steady game. He was stable defensively and at the same time good going forward.

Alou Diarra  – 6
He is only there because of the injury to Yann M’Vila. He was at fault for England’s opener, as he let Lescott get in front of him and head the ball past Lloris. Made a couple of good tackles here and there, and troubled Hart with a powerful header from a Samir Nasri freekick in the first half, but otherwise he was not involved a lot in the game.

Yohan Cabaye – 7 (Sub Off 84′)
Put in a very good display, as he was the link between the defence and the attack for France. Delivered a couple of dangerous corners and put in a couple of dangerous through balls but his team couldn’t make any good use of it. Came close of scoring, with one superb volley, taken on the rise, which was deflected just wide.

Florent Malouda – 5 (Sub Off 85′) (Flop of the Match)
Continued with his Chelsea form, as he was very anonymous almost the complete game. The former Lyon winger lacks the pace to the trouble the opposition defence and saw very little of the ball. Was substituted in the 85th minute.

Samir Nasri – 8 (Man of the Match)
Was the best player on the pitch. The Manchester City man scored his country’s equaliser, beating club teammate Joe Hart and was the heart of every chance France created to threaten the English defence. Enjoyed playing in center role just behind Karim Benzema and is one of players to keep an eye on during this tournament.

Franck Ribery – 7.5
Was very impressive and continued his club form for his country. Like Nasri, he was the heart of the French attack. He worked hard through out the game by cutting inside from the wings but was  largely left frustrated by the English defence. He will be credited with an assist to his name, as it was him who passed it to Nasri.

Karim Benzema – 7.5
France’s main target man didn’t get on the scoresheet but had a lively game. He was kept quite by the solid defensive pairing of John Terry and Joleon Lescott but managed to trouble Hart with a couple of long-range efforts.

Subs

Hatem Ben Arfa (Sub On 84′) – N/A

Marvin Martin (Sub On 85′) – N/A

ENGLAND

Joe Hart – 7
The England keeper was by far the busier of the two keepers and made several smart saves to keep his side in the game. He would be disappointed for letting Nasri’s shot beat him at near post but that was the only blight in an otherwise blameless performance.

Glen Johnson – 7
The Liverpool right-back had a good game. He did very well by not giving Ribery a lot of space to run with and was also one of England’s threat going forward. But still he could improve on his crosses.

John Terry – 7
Terry was an imposing figure at the back of the English defence, using all his experience to contain the threat of Karim Benzema. He marshaled his troops and ensured that the English defence kept their shape.

Joleon Lescott – 7
Made sure that Gary Cahill’s absence was not felt at all. Was very sound defensive alongside John Terry and also was good in the air. He showcased his aerial abilities by scoring England’s opener from a brilliant Steven Gerrard freekick.

Ashley Cole – 6.5
Was troubled a lot through out the game especially by the dangerous overlapping runs of Debuchy, but as always used his experienced and coped up well with them.  Made several timely tackles to break up the French attack.

James Milner – 6
He was selected ahead of Theo Walcott just to help Johnson out with his defensive duties and he did well against the threat of Ribery. Was, however, poor going forward and didn’t cause any threat at all to Patrice Evra and was also guilty of missing a glorious opportunity in the first half.

Scott Parker – 6.5 (Sub Off 78′)
Parker was quietly effective in his role as the anchorman and by throwing himself around to block a couple of shots. Combined well with Gerrard to deny France their second goal. Got tired towards the end and was replaced by Jordan Henderson.

Steven Gerrard – 8
Was England’s best man on the field. The skipper was an inspirational figure and delivered a brilliant freekick which led to Joleon Lescott’s headed opener. He is a dangerous man going forward but was probably told by Hodgson to sit back a bit and help Parker with the defending. He did his defensive duties very well, clearing a dangerous Evra cross and later heading away a curling Benzema shot in the second half.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 (Sub Off 77′)
Was a surprise inclusion ahead of Walcott and Downing but the 18-year-old did not justify his selection with an unexceptional display. Showed some flashes of brilliance but was overall subdued and easily bullied off the ball.

Ashley Young – 6 
Young had a mediocre game by his own standards as he played up front, just behind Danny Welbeck but was always a threat to French defence while going forward. Didn’t create much except for that wonderful through ball to James Milner, who was unable to capitalize on the chance after beating Lloris.

Danny Welbeck – 7 (Sub Off 90′)
Welbeck was sharp throughout the game and completely justified his selection ahead of Andy Carroll and Jermain Defoe. His movement on and off the ball was perfect and came back often to see more of the ball and to get involved in the game. Didn’t get many chance to proud a save from Lloris or trouble the French defence.

Subs

Jermain Defoe (Sub On 77′) – N/A

Jordan Henderson (Sub On 78′) – N/A

Theo Walcott (Sub On 90′) – N/A

France v England Preview

The Euro 2012 Group D opener at Donetsk on Monday promises to be a cracker of a match as underachieving European giants France and England square off against each other in a renewal of a long standing football rivalry.

Roy Hodgson’s men have endured an injury-hit build-up the tournament with four players withdrawing from the squad since it was announced last month. But the England boss has confirmed there are no further fitness concerns in the camp and the team are raring to go amid an atmosphere of lowered expectations going into this competition. A key reason for that, as well as the high-profile withdrawals and omissions, is the absence of Wayne Rooney for this game as he serves the first of a two-game suspension for his red card in Montenegro last year. And the rest of the team will need to be near their best given that the Three Lions start as underdogs against Laurent Blanc’s side.

France are unbeaten in 21 games under Blanc and will be looking to erase memories of the shambles that occurred under Raymond Domenech at the World Cup two years ago. Les Bleus finished bottom of their group with the team in disgrace after boycotting training in South Africa but French supporters may prefer to look back to the memory of when these sides met in 2004. France won in the sides’ opening game of UEFA EURO 2004 despite being behind when the clock struck ninety minutes. That tournament was England’s last taste of European Championship action until this game. The so-called Golden Generation are all but gone. But Hodgson will be hoping that could yet work in England’s favour.

TEAM NEWS

France

France coach Laurent Blanc is unlikely to risk midfielder Yann M’Vila against England as deputies Alou Diarra and Blaise Matuidi have recovered well from respective knee and hamstring problems. M’Vila has struggled with a thigh injury but otherwise Blanc has had few fresh concerns to deal with since Loic Remy dropped out of the squad with a thigh problem of his own at the end of May. Karim Benzema will start ahead of Olivier Giroud in attack following his dazzling display in Les Bleus’ final pre-tournament friendly against Estonia, while Philippe Mexes is likely to retain his place despite pressure from backup Laurent Koscielny.

England

Several questions of strategy, form and fitness still surround England manager Roy Hodgson’s team selection. John Terry returned to training on Thursday following a hamstring complaint and should start alongside Joleon Lescott in central defence, with Phil Jagielka waiting in the wings. At the opposite end of the pitch, both Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have staked claims to the lone striking role, with Wayne Rooney suspended. Welbeck scored in the Three Lions’ last friendly against Belgium and is expected to get the nod ahead of Carroll. On the right flank, James Milner is almost certain to start, while on the end of the pitch, young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be given a chance ahead of the likes of Theo Walcott and Stewart Downing.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 28
France Wins – 8
Draws – 4
England Wins – 16

FORM GUIDE

France – WWWWD
06-Jun-12 – Friendly – France 4-0 Estonia
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – France 2-0 Serbia
28-May-12 – Friendly – France 3-2 Iceland
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – Germany 1-2 France
16-Nov-11 – Friendly – France 0-0 Belgium

England – WWLWW
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – England 1-0 Belgium
27-May-12 – Friendly – Norway 0-1 England
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – England 2-3 Netherlands
16-Nov-11 – Friendly – England 1-0 Sweden
12-Nov-11 – Friendly – England 1-0 Spain

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Franck Ribery (France)
The Bayern Munich winger has been in top form this season for both, club and country. The former Marseille man has been inspirational in helping his German club reach the finals of the Champions League and the German cup. The 29-year-old’s pace, trickery, passing, movement, ability to cut inside from the flanks and finishing will be of huge threats to the England defence.

Karim Benzema (France)
The inform Real Madrid striker will spearhead France’s attack. The former Lyon man has been in top form for Real Madrid this season scoring 32 goals for the Spanish champions in all competitions and will be hoping to replicate the same form for his country. Benzema’s ability to create a goal or make a key pass with very little space will be one of the major threats to the English defence.

Steven Gerrard (England)
Liverpool’s inspirational captain will be looking to inspire and motivate his England teammates when they face the French later today. In the absense of Wayne Rooney for the first two games, Gerrard is the key man and England’s hopes of making it through to the quarters will rest on his shoulders. He would be the main creative source in the midfield and his glorious through-balls and long thunderous strikes could hurt the opposition.

Ashley Young (England)
 The Manchester United winger could be England’s main man against France today, as he will be playing as the support striker just behind Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll – whoever starts. Young has an outstanding record for England, as he averages a goal and a assist in his every three matches.  He ability to make the important runs behind the defenders and put in some dangerous crosses, could really pose a threat to the French defence.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

France (4-2-3-1): Hugo Lloris (C); Matthieu Debuchy, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexes, Patrice Evra; Alou Diarra, Yohan Cabaye; Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery; Karim Benzema.

France are expected to start with their tried and test 4-2-3-1 formation which helped them qualify as group winners. The defence looks well set and the experience of Patrice Evra is expected to get the nod ahead of Manchester City’s Gael Clichy. Yann M’Vila has recovered from his ankle injury but is not going to be risked and played in today’s game and instead the Marseille midfielder Alou Diarra is expected to start alongside Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye in the center of midfield. The creative trio of Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery will play just behind the target man up top, the inform Karim Benzema.

England (4-4-1-): Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole; James Milner, Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard (C), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Ashley Young; Danny Welbeck.

England are expected to play the same 4-4-1-1 formation, which they used for their previous two friendlies against Norway and Belgium. The safe hands of Joe Hart will be in goal and will be guarded by a strong and discipline defence consisting of Johnson, Terry, Lescott and Ashely Cole. The work rate of James Milner is expected to see him get the nod ahead of Theo Walcott on the right side of the midfield, while Parker and skipper Gerrard will play in the center of the four man midfield. The misfiring Stewart Downing is expected by many to play on the left side but for me it would be the youth and pace of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Downing. Ashley Young will be in the number10 role just behind the striker Danny Welbeck.

MATCH ODDS

France 11/8 Draw 21/10 England 21/10

PREDICTION

The match is expected to be similar to the Germany-Portugal game. A cagey affair will both teams making sure they don’t lose their opening game. Both the teams have a lot of attacking talent and also have individual players who could turn the game around single handedly. France would dominate the game a lot, while the Three Lions would be happy to sit back and absorb all the pressure and hit the French on the break or on the counter. The discipline of English defence will help them get atleast a point from this game.

Predicted Score – France 1-1 England