Euro qualifiers: Chance for England trio to prove their worth
ENGLAND v SAN MARINO
There won't be much in the way of tension tomorrow morning (Singapore time) when England play San Marino, but for three players in particular, there will at least be a chance to stake a claim to the first team.
Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers and Nathaniel Clyne won't see this game as a waste of time, they'll see it as a chance to alter perceptions.
Lallana, at 26, the senior of the trio, played a part in every one of England's World Cup games this summer, but he's been unable to push himself into the reckoning for a guaranteed place.
A driven midfielder whose start to life at Liverpool was delayed by a knee injury, his versatility can be something of a curse.
Comfortable on either flank, or even through the middle, a game against a team as poor as San Marino could be just what he needs.
"I still feel I have a lot to learn," he said this week.
"I don't think by any stretch I'm an established international. I have hard work to do to get to this level."
Lallana's enthusiasm for a driving run will certainly be useful against a team liable to play with a bank of five protected by a tight bank of four, or even another five if they really drop deep.
This is not a player short on confidence as the remarkable pull-back that created his goal against West Bromwich Albion last Saturday proved.
"It's always good, even in training, to show the manager what you can do and remind him, so if I get my chance, I'll be looking to take it and impress him."
Chambers, Lallana's former teammate at Southampton, is in a similar position.
The 19-year-old has made a fine start with Arsenal, demonstrating his talents both at centre back and right back in the early stages of the season.
It is the former position that he may play in tomorrow morning.
There is little to be gained from fielding Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill together against a team that will barely cross the halfway line, so Hodgson may consider this a good time to give Chambers his first start in the middle.
Chambers is a composed young defender, positionally aware and strong in the tackle.
There are weaknesses in his game though.
He has a tendency to use fouls to recover from mistakes, something that has not gone unnoticed by the referees.
Chambers is the first Premier League player to pick up a one-match suspension for receiving five yellow cards, no mean feat in just seven games.
Experience will help iron out this flaw in his game.
Experience has certainly carried Clyne to new levels.
Still at Southampton unlike his two former colleagues, he was raised at Crystal Palace.
He's happy simply to be in the squad, and he's not the only one.
When he called his mother to tell her the news, she burst into tears.
A reminder there that even though these games are unremarkable affairs, they always mean something to someone.
"I was just delighted to get the call-up," he said. "I am happy and I am proud and will go with England and show that I am capable of wearing the jersey."
Clyne is an exciting right back who likes to get forward and run at his man.
He will have plenty of chances to do that, should he make the starting line-up.
He certainly won't have to worry about defensive responsibilities here.
The prospect of smashing San Marino does not make for entertaining sport but, with a trip to Estonia next week, it's a chance to claim that place and keep it.
For that reason, for these three men, this game couldn't be any more important.
By the numbers
In their past three encounters, all World Cup Qualifiers, England scored a total of 20 goals past San Marino:
- 8-0 - March 2013
- 5-0 - Oct 2012
- 7-1 - Nov 1993
Lallana: I need to step up
Adam Lallana is determined to "step up" and start scoring for England as he looks to re-establish himself in Roy Hodgson's side.
The 26-year-old made a £25-million ($51.3m) move to Liverpool in the summer, having come through the leagues with Southampton to become a Three Lions regular.
A member of the World Cup squad, Lallana missed last month's meet-up with a knee injury as his time at Anfield got off to an unfortunate start.
The attacking midfielder has flourished since recovering from that issue, though, netting his first Reds goal in last Saturday's 2-1 defeat of West Brom.
It was a "special feeling" full of different emotions for Lallana, who is determined to follow that up by breaking his England duck in the upcoming European Championship qualifiers.
"I think I need to make that step up," he said. "I mean, the type of player I am, I have always chipped in with goals throughout my career.
"I feel, with England, I need to step up and nip in with a fair few of my own, like at club level.
"It is something I want to add to my game and add to what I do when I play for England."
This week certainly offers Lallana a decent opportunity to do that, with Monday morning's (Singapore time) trip to Estonia following a home clash tomorrow morning against a San Marino side ranked 208th in the world - joint-bottom with Bhutan.
Those matches also offer the Reds midfielder a chance to re-establish himself as a starter under Hodgson.
A regular in the line-up ahead of the World Cup, Lallana began the first two matches in Brazil from the bench before starting the dead-rubber against Costa Rica.
"Being a fresh season, a fresh campaign, I am always looking to impress in training and for my club now, Liverpool," Lallana said.
"We have got a lot of talented players. There is always competition for places out there, so I am hungry to do well and impress."
Another player out to prove his worth is defender Nathaniel Clyne, who has yet to make his England debut, but the right back is already targeting a regular role in Roy Hodgson's starting line-up.
A fine start to the campaign with Southampton was rewarded last week by a first call-up to the senior side for the upcoming Euro 2016 Qualifiers.
A starting berth in those matches is not out of the question for the uncapped defender, with the experienced Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker joined on the sidelines by John Stones.
The Everton defender started at right back in England's last two matches, but withdrew from the squad last Sunday after sustaining an ankle problem, meaning Clyne could be thrown in at the deep end.
"I need to go there and the training sessions and show what I am about and hopefully I will get my chance and start for England," the Saints right back said.
"The aim is to take step by step, but I am not here for fun and games. I am here to nail my colours to the mast and hopefully I will take that right-back position and make it my own.
"I am not really focused on who is in or who is out, who is injured or not. I am just focusing on myself and if I am doing well then hopefully I will get a chance, like I have done, and play well when I get an opportunity." - PA Sport.
"I mean, the type of player I am, I have always chipped in with goals throughout my career. I feel, with England, I need to step up and nip in with."
- England attacking midfielder Adam Lallana
"The aim is to take step by step, but I am not here for fun and games. I am here to nail my colours to the mast and hopefully I will take that rightback position and make it my own."
- England right back Nathaniel Clyne
- 2.45am: Slovenia v Switzerland
- 2.45am: Lithuania v Estonia
- 12am: Estonia v England
- 2.45am: Lithuania v Slovenia
- 2.45am: San Marino v Switzerland