Paul Merson names Eric Dier, James Milner, Ross Barkley in England XI for Euro 2016
Last Updated: 25/03/16 4:38pm
Who should start for England in their Euro 2016 opener against Russia on June 11?
That's the question we posed to Sky Sports expert and former England international Paul Merson as Roy Hodgson fine-tunes his plans for the summer tournament in France.
Ahead of this week's friendlies with Germany and Netherlands, Merson has picked the following XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation…
MERSE SAYS: I think this is a no-brainer if he's fit. He is England's best goalkeeper.
MERSE SAYS: We've been blessed over the years with real good defenders, but that's our weakest point at the moment. In the past we've been Ashford & Simpson - solid as a rock - but it's the weakest part of our team now and that worries me. Going forward I think we will really hurt teams, but defensively we've got to find a way to be really solid. I like Nathaniel Clyne because he has pace and you need that in international football.
MERSE SAYS: I know John Stones isn't playing in the Everton team at the moment, but he has to play for England. In international football you need someone who is going to come out and start attacks and play with the ball. You need someone comfortable because it will be boiling hot in France and without someone like him in defence we won't keep the ball and we will fade.
MERSE SAYS: For me, Chris Smalling is a no-brainer. He is one of the first names on the team sheet now. He gets better every time he plays - and has improved every week for the last couple of years.
MERSE SAYS: Danny Rose is one of the most improved players this season and is quick, like Clyne. He has been very good for Tottenham this year and has defended very well and got forward well. For me, he has to play.
MERSE SAYS: This may surprise a few people, but for me, Eric Dier is the best English holding midfield player in the country. He is very disciplined and makes simple passes. He wins the ball and gives it to someone else without looking to spray a 40-yard pass. I'd tell him and James Milner to sit there in front of the back four and the goalkeeper and let the front four get on with it. It doesn't matter if you're the best defender in the world, you need protection.
MERSE SAYS: Milner has got the legs, he can get around the pitch and he is experienced. He can run all day, which is important because it is going to be so hot over in France. As a free transfer for Liverpool, he has got to be one of the best signings of the season. If he and Dier can stay in front of the back four and be disciplined then we should be all right.
MERSE SAYS: Dele Alli makes runs forward. He is a Frank Lampard-style player who is willing to run without the ball. He scores goals and he makes goals - and those players don't come along too often. My three players behind Harry Kane can go anywhere they want, as long as they get back into a shape when we don't have the ball. If those four attacking players can't get us goals then we may as well jack it in! I don't think there will be a better front four at the Euros. They can be a sensation.
MERSE SAYS: I don't care if you're the best defender in the world, you don't want Ross Barkley getting on the ball and running at you. If you want to win the Euros, you've got to have a surprise package and Alli and Barkley can be a surprise package for me.
MERSE SAYS: Roy Hodgson will definitely start him and for me he's still the first name on the team sheet. He's played more than 100 games for his country, he's our all-time leading goalscorer and he's still an exceptional footballer. Fast forward to the Euros and imagine if Wayne Rooney wasn't in the line-up. That would be a huge shock and Russia would be absolutely delighted.
MERSE SAYS: Harry Kane has to play. He plays up front on his own for Tottenham and he's looking like winning the Golden Boot at the moment. I would bring Jamie Vardy on with 30 minutes left and drop Kane back and take Rooney off. That would let Vardy open the game up. When the game opens up he will be really useful because he looks to go the other way, which a lot of players don't. Daniel Sturridge is a top player, but I don't think he has had enough game time. Can he play six or seven games in a short space of time? I don't think he can. So Kane has to start.
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