Preview: England's preparations for Euro 2012 continue in earnest with a friendly against Belgium at Wembley. In just his second match in charge, new England boss Roy Hodgson faces his last chance to work on team selection and team unity before their opening game of the European Championships against France on June 11.
Despite a 1-0 win over Norway last weekend, Hodgson's first occasion leading out England was marred by an injury to Gareth Barry. And things would get worse this past week when Frank Lampard suffered a groin injury that forced his withdrawal from this summer's festivities.
Phil Jagielka and Jordan Henderson have come in, but the injuries have left Hodgson's options in the middle of the park thin on the ground.
Captain Steven Gerrard is expected to again start alongside Scott Parker in the middle, as he now surely must do against France. With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two games, Danny Welbeck is likely to get a chance to stake his claim to a starting berth after Andy Carroll's run out in Oslo.
The friendly with Belgium also represents the first and only chance for the Chelsea contingent, who should make up three of the back four, to bed into the side before heading off to Poland and Ukraine.
On Saturday, the Stamford Bridge trio is likely to come up against their imminent future teammate Eden Hazard. The 21-year-old, set to arrive in a £32 million deal from Lille, is the brightest of many young Belgium stars who have yet to fully show their potential for the national side.
Long talked about as a golden generation of players, Belgium again failed to qualify for a major tournament this summer. Looking to impress his employers, interim coach Marc Wilmots will be hoping to show signs of building a greater cohesiveness ahead of the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. With the likes of Hazard, Axel Witsel, Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen set to be in or approaching their prime, it is a competition that would only be enhanced by their presence.
England (probable, 4-4-1-1)
D: Johnson, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Milner, Parker, Gerrard, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Belgium (probable, 4-2-3-1)
D: Odoi, Kompany, Vertonghen, Vermaelen
M: Witsel, Fellaini
Mertens, Dembele, Hazard
Prediction: While this England side is far from inspiring, there should be ample motivation for those involved with several places in Hodgson's starting Euro 2012 lineup still potentially up for grabs. The amount of talent in the Belgium side could well make this an intriguing and engaging matchup, but England should have the greater imperative needed to secure a narrow home victory.
England 2-1 Belgium