Tuesday 16 October 2012
Many Barclays Premier League players will be involved FIFA World Cup qualifying matches on Tuesday night as Europe's nations resume their bid to reach the 2014 finals in Brazil.
A host of intriguing fixtures are in store as Italy host Denmark, England travel to Poland and Germany take on Sweden but the pick of the ties pits France against Spain in Group I.
Les Bleus share the lead with their opponents with six points from two matches played, but they need to respond positively in Madrid after last week's 1-0 home defeat by Japan, especially as a Spain side featuring Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla and Manchester City's David Silva beat Belarus 4-0 on Friday.
Cazorla may well come up against two of his club-mates as Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny were among four starters from the English top flight that lost in Paris, while Silva could face club-mate Gael Clichy, who was charged with protecting Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris's goal.
Didier Deschamps may choose to ring the changes, however, and both Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Manchester United defender Patrice Evra are expected to recover from respective rib and back injuries.
For Spain, Liverpool's Pepe Reina will again be on standby for first-choice goalkeeper Iker Casillas, while Chelsea's Fernando Torres reacquaints himself with his old ground, the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
England will be in good heart after trouncing San Marino 5-0 but their trip to Poland represents a sterner test. Like Chelsea duo Frank Lampard (knee) and Ryan Bertrand (virus), Arsenal’s Theo Walcott will be missing after a chest injury suffered in a collision with Aldo Simoncini at Wembley.
Team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will hope to retain his place as will Manchester United forwards Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney, who also both scored on Friday, while manager Roy Hodgson must decide whether or not to keep Everton left-back Leighton Baines in the lineup ahead of Chelsea's Ashley Cole.
Wales and Scotland both face tricky trips to Group A co-leaders Croatia and Belgium in matches to feature numerous Barclays Premier League players. Wales will be buoyed by their Gareth Bale-inspired comeback victory against Scotland, although manager Chris Coleman will be without the suspended Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey for the trip to Osijek.
Norwich City’s Steve Morison, Liverpool’s Joe Allen, Swansea City’s Ashley Williams and Reading pair Chris Gunther and Simon Church will aim to upset a team featuring Everton striker Nikica Jelavic.
The mountain Scotland have to climb to qualify will feel all the steeper against Belgium even if the hosts are deprived of the injured Marouane Fellaini. The Everton midfielder was scarcely missed as Serbia were beaten3-0 in Belgrade thanks to goals by Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, Chelsea loanee Kevin De Bruyne and Everton striker Kevin Mirallas.
Marc Wilmots’s victorious side also boasted three Barclays Premier League defenders in Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, Tottenham’s Jos Vertonghen, Man City captain Vincent Kompany, while Spurs and Chelsea playmakers Moussa Dembele and Eden Hazard will be looking to pull the strings again.
Visiting midfielder James Morrison, of West Bromwich Albion, aims to score a second successive international goal after converting a header in Cardiff, while Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher will be hoping his next goal, unlike his effort against Wales, will be allowed to stand. Club-mate Alan Hutton, Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher, Southampton’s Daniel Fox and Wigan Athletic’s Gary Caldwell will be among those whose work will be cut out in Brussels.
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli hopes to be back in international action against Denmark after missing Italy’s 3-1 win in Armenia with a high temperature. He will be looking to get the better of Liverpool defender Daniel Agger, while striker Nicklas Bendtner, who is on loan at Juventus from Arsenal, strives to put one past fellow Bianconero Gianluigi Buffon.
In the evening’s other Group B fixture Petr Cech will try to keep a clean sheet for the Czech Republic against Bulgaria.
Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski will expect to come up against greater resistance against Sweden than they did when helping Germany thrash the Republic of Ireland 6-1 in Dublin, although the Swedes only just edged the Faroe Islands 2-1 on Friday.
Manchester United goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, West Bromwich Albion pair Jonas Olsson and Marcus Berg, Sunderland winger Sebastian Larsson and Fulham midfielder Alexander Kacaniklic, who scored the equaliser in Torshavn, will attempt to cause problems for the two Gunners.
In the same group, Aston Villa’s Andreas Weimann will be in action for Austria against a Kazakhstan side who held them to a goalless draw in Astana on Saturday, while the Republic of Ireland go to the Faroe Islands looking to restore morale.
Everton full-back Seamus Coleman, Sunderland pair John O’Shea and David Meyler, West Bromwich Albion trio Keith Andrews, Simon Cox and Shane Long, Stoke City pair Jon Walters and Marc Wilson, Wigan midfielder James McCarthy, Manchester United midfielder Robbie Brady and Aston Villa’s Ciaran Clark are vying for selection by Giovanni Trapattoni.
Manchester United striker Robin van Persie will hope to add to his 70 caps and 30 international goals against Romania after having been an unused substitute for the Netherlands’ 3-0 win over Andorra.
Defenders Ron Vlaar and Johnny Heitinga, of Villa and Everton respectively, will aim to keep another clean sheet, while Swansea’s Michel Vorm stands by as goalkeeping cover. Romania beat Turkey 1-0 on Friday thanks in part to the defending of West Brom’s Gabriel Tamas.
Turkey’s Liverpool midfielder Nuri Sahin faces a Hungary side captained by West Brom’s Zoltan Gera who helped his side edge a 1-0 win over Estonia. After scoring for Norway in their 1-1 draw with Switzerland, Brede Hangeland will be happy with another goal against Cyprus in a match sure to feature fellow Fulham defender John Arne Riise.
The Swiss, whose defence is marshalled by Johan Djourou of Arsenal, take on an Iceland outfit including Tottenham’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose free-kick on Friday sealed a 2-1 victory over Albania.
Portugal intend to bounce back from their Group F defeat by Fabio Capello’s Russia with a win against Northern Ireland in Oporto. The visitors, who scraped a last-gasp point against Luxembourg last month, will hope Manchester United defender Jonny Evans can thwart club-mate Nani and former Red Devil Cristiano Ronaldo - who is in line for his 100th cap - playing alongside West Brom's Gareth McAuley, Fulham duo Chris Baird and Aaron Hughes. Southampton and West Brom midfielders Steven Davis and Chris Brunt will also be hoping to feature.
Other Barclays Premier League players in action include Reading’s Kaspars Gorkss, who plays for Latvia against Liechtenstein, Stoke and Man City’s Asmir Begovic and Edin Dzeko who will be aiming to improve upon Bosnia’s goalless draw with Greece against Lithuania and Fulham midfielder Giorgios Karagounis, who may feature for Greece against Slovakia.
Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and Man City pair Matija Nastasic and Aleksandr Kolarov will be in action for Serbia against a Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia side which includes West Brom defender Goran Popov.
Group A: Croatia v Wales, FYR Macedonia v Serbia, Belgium v Scotland
Group B: Czech Republic v Bulgaria, Italy v Denmark, Malta
Group C: Faroe Islands v Rep of Ireland, Austria v Kazakhstan, Germany v Sweden
Group D: Andorra v Estonia, Romania v Netherlands, Hungary v Turkey
Group E: Cyprus v Norway, Iceland v Switzerland, Albania v Slovenia
Group F: Russia v Azerbaijan, Israel v Luxembourg, Portugal v Northern Ireland
Group G: Latvia v Liechtenstein, Bosnia & Herzegovina v Lithuania, Slovakia v Greece
Group H: Ukraine v Montenegro, San Marino v Moldova, Poland v England
Group I: Belarus v Georgia, Spain v France
Group A: FYR Macedonia 1-2 Croatia, Serbia 0-3 Belgium, Wales 2-1 Scotland
Group B: Armenia 1-3 Italy, Bulgaria 1-1 Denmark, Czech Republic 3-1 Malta
Group C: Faroe Islands 1-2 Sweden, Kazakhstan 0-0 Austria, Rep of Ireland 1-6 Germany
Group D: Estonia 0-1 Hungary, Netherlands 3-0 Andorra, Turkey 0-1 Romania
Group E: Albania 1-2 Iceland, Slovenia 2-1 Cyprus, Switzerland 1-1 Norway
Group F: Luxembourg 0-6 Israel, Russia 1-0 Portugal
Group G: Greece 0-0 Bosnia & Herzegovina, Liechtenstein 0-2 Lithuania, Slovakia 2-1 Latvia
Group H: Moldova 0-0 Ukraine, England 5-0 San Marino
Group I: Finland 1-1 Georgia, Belarus 0-4 Spain