MX23RW : Wednesday, January 23 08:02:11
May 27, 2016 at 7.45pm UK at ​Stadium of Light
Rashford (3'), Rooney (55')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Dier (75' og.)

Preview: England vs. Australia

Sports Mole previews the international friendly at the Stadium of Light between England and Australia.

England play host to Australia at the Stadium of Light on Friday night as they compete in the second of three international friendlies ahead of participating at Euro 2016 next month.

Australia have won their last four fixtures but facing the Three Lions on away territory will be a significant step up in class for Ange Postecoglu's side.


Roy Hodgson watches on during an England training session on May 25, 2016© Getty Images

After a flawless qualifying campaign which saw them record 10 successive victories, the time has nearly come for England to go through their final preparations ahead of their bid to end 50 years of hurt at Euro 2016.

Roy Hodgson's side can only be considered as dark horses to win the tournament but after just two friendly defeats in 19 outings since their dismal showing at the World Cup in Brazil, supporters have reason to be optimistic ahead of this summer's competition.

In their 2-1 win over Turkey on Sunday, England showed glimpses of their qualities going forward with Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane again impressing in attack, but concerns remain at the back where they are light in numbers and players who enjoy getting their body in front of the ball.

It is a problem that Hodgson has been aware of for some time but these final two warm-up games are a chance for him to settle on a central-defence partnership and to choose a player who can team with Eric Dier in front of the back four.

This fixture is likely to feature the international bow of Marcus Rashford, who has scored eight times in 18 appearances for Manchester United, while the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Andros Townsend will be given the opportunity to earn a place in the final 23-man squad.

Hodgson will expect to overcome an Australian side which is also likely to feature some fresh faces, but the England boss will place more importance on establishing which players will board the plane to France and who will miss out at the final hurdle, with Hodgson keen to finalise his group before the friendly with Portugal next Thursday.

Recent form (all competitions): WLWWLW


Australia coach Ange Postecoglou stands on the touchline during his side's match against South Africa on May 26, 2014.© Getty Images

Over the course of the past 12 months, making headway in their attempts to secure qualification for the 2018 World Cup has been Australia's main priority but while their trip to England will be seen as an opportunity to use players in a different environment, Postecoglu will be keen to cause another surprise against a European giant.

On their last visit to the continent, Australia claimed an impressive 2-2 draw against Germany in Kaiserslautern, with the Socceroos on their way to victory until Lukas Podolski netted a late equaliser for the world champions.

There was disappointment within the Australian ranks that they could not hold on to a result that would have hit the backpages back home, but Postecoglu would have only taken encouragement from the performance of his team and they took that form into the eight World Cup qualifiers that followed.

Seven wins and 29 goals were recorded during that period and there will be a belief within the squad that have travelled to the North-East of England that they can make a dent in their opponents' preparations ahead of their trip to France next month.

National team legend Tim Cahill - who has scored eight times during their qualifying campaign - misses out but Jamie Maclaren could finally get his opportunity to make an impact in attack after scoring goals on a regular basis in the A-League for Brisbane Roar and for Australia's Under-21 and Under-23 sides.

Postecoglu has suggested that he will make further changes to his starting lineup but that should not weaken Australia's chance of gaining a result from this game, with the majority of the squad seeing this match as a chance to not only impress their national team coach but also any managers or scouts from the most high-profile leagues in Europe.

Recent form (all competitions): WLWWWW

Team News

Fabian Delph of England is tackled by Stephan Lichtsteiner of Switzerland during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group E qualifying match between Switzerland and England at St Jakob-Park on September 8, 2014© Getty Images

Midfielder Fabian Delph has been ruled out with a groin injury that is likely to keep him out of contention for Euro 2016.

Daniel Sturridge is also absent with a calf strain, with Vardy also sitting out after his wedding took place on Wednesday.

Rashford is expected to make his debut for the Three Lions after shaking off a knee injury sustained in the FA Cup final, while Fraser Forster starts in goal ahead of Joe Hart and Tom Heaton.

Postecoglu could hand first international starts to Maclaren, Stefan Mauk, Brad Inman and Milos Degenek.

The Australia boss has also hinted that he could adopt a new formation to enable his side to become accustomed to different styles of play.

England possible starting lineup:
Forster, Clyne, Smalling, Stones, Bertrand, Henderson, Drinkwater, Barkley, Townsend, Sterling, Rashford

Australia possible starting lineup:
Ryan, Sainsbury, Wright, Risdon, Smith, Milligan, Jendinak, Kruse, Mooy, Rogic, Maclaren

Head To Head

Friday's contest will represent the seventh time that the two teams have met on the international stage, with England winning half of those fixtures.

However, it was Australia who emerged victorious in the most recent clash in 2003 in a game remembered for the debut of Wayne Rooney.

The Socceroos secured a 3-1 victory at Upton Park but Rooney made an instant impact for his nation by providing the assist for Francis Jeffers to score his one and only international goal.

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We say: England 3-1 Australia

There will be an element of experimentation from both sides but England's superior strength in depth should enable them to comfortably see off their opponents. Alterations in defence - their well-publicised weakest area - may allow Australia to get on the scoresheet but it should be no more than a consolation goal.

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Marcus Rashford is all smiles during an England training session on May 25, 2016
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