Three Lions confident of victory

AP , MOSCOW

Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 19

England expect to earn their sixth-straight win in qualifying for next year's European Championship when they face Russia today.

"We've just won our last three games 3-0 and we beat Russia 3-0 a few weeks ago. Whoever we play, we go out to win," England manager Steve McClaren said after Saturday's encouraging win over Estonia.

England are in second place in Group E with 23 points, three behind leaders Croatia. Russia are third with 18 points and a game in hand.

A victory today would secure England at least second place in the group and a berth in the final tournament.

"The only thing we need is to win," Russia coach Guus Hiddink said on Monday. "But we have a meeting with an opponent who has gathered a lot of confidence in recent five, six matches."

Russia will be without FC Nuremberg striker Ivan Saenko, who left the team's camp with a relapse of an ankle injury after several practice sessions on the artificial field of the Luzhniki stadium. Midfielder Roman Shirokov, a newcomer to the team, was called up as a possible substitute.

McClaren was not worried about playing on an unusual surface.

"We've done our research into that fieldturf and grass. There is no significant difference between the surfaces," McClaren said.

England will be without left back Ashley Cole, who is out with a left ankle injury he picked up in the second half on Saturday. But Russia will hardly capitalize on the right flank as Spartak Moscow halfback Vladimir Bystrov is also out with a knee injury.

Cole could be replaced by Luke Young or Joleon Lescott, who is usually a central defender and made his debut on Saturday.

England captain John Terry could be back after a knee injury, while Frank Lampard could return in midfield despite being jeered as a substitute on Saturday.

"We're in pole position. It's up to us," McClaren said. "We'll go for balance. You want to be hard to beat. You want to make sure you keep a clean sheet there and try and get the result. A draw will be suitable."

Hiddink, who has recently extended his contract with the Russian soccer union until 2010 and is setting up a new, younger team, said "a period when we were sloppy in defensive work of the whole team" led to a 3-0 loss to England last month.

"We must be good in all aspects of the game on Wednesday," Hiddink said. "And we hope they [England] will not have that good day they had recently in their games."