Source AP ©

England preparing to defeat against Russia

After a convincing win over Israel England must defeat Russia in a much tougher European Championship qualifier.

With several first-choice players injured, England's reshuffled lineup overwhelmed a hesitant Israel side 3-0 on Saturday at Wembley. Coach Steve McClaren must now decide whether to stick with the same team as he tries to secure another valuable three points in the quest to reach next year's tournament.

The experienced Owen Hargreaves could be fit and Peter Crouch is no longer suspended. McClaren must decide whether to retain the relatively untested Gareth Barry in midfield and unglamorous Emile Heskey up front.

Russia is coached by former Netherlands and South Korea manager Guus Hiddink and, like Group E leader Croatia, is a serious contender to beat England to one of the group's two qualification spots.

"We've got the first job done and now we have to quickly get our minds set on Russia because I'm sure that game will be tougher," England midfielder Steven Gerrard said. "It was a good result against Israel and there were a lot of positives to take from the game, but we're not getting carried away."

Gerrard was in doubt for the match against Israel, but played despite a broken toe. He was substituted midway through the second half when goals by Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Owen and Micah Richards had put England in control, but should be fit for a second Wembley appearance in five days.

Gerrard's partnership with Barry in central midfield looked promising, although the pair were rarely tested defensively. Hargreaves should have recovered from a thigh injury and is adept at protecting the back four, so McClaren could restore the Manchester United player at the expense of Barry.

"Hopefully I've given the coach something to think about," Barry said. "It's another option for him, though, isn't it? All you can do is put your name in the frame and do as well as you can."

Heskey made his first England appearance in more than three years on Saturday, creating chances and making space with his willingness to hold up the ball. It was his pass that set up Owen for his 49th-minute turn and shot from outside the area, so he could stay in the team ahead of Crouch, who is the more regular scorer.

The rest of the team is likely to stay the same, with Wright-Phillips on the right wing in place of the injured David Beckham, who may not now get back in the team when fit.

England needs to beat second-place Russia, not just for the three points, but because it may struggle in next month's return match at Moscow, which is set to be played on an unfamiliar artificial surface.

Russia beat Macedonia 3-0 on Saturday to stay one point ahead of England, and two behind Croatia.

Russia will be without goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov, who is suspended after being sent off for fouling Macedonia's Goran Maznov. Russia played the last 20 minutes of that match with 10 men, but Andrei Arshavin and Alexander Kerzhakov still added to Vasiliy Berezutskiy's earlier goal to secure a comfortable victory.

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