Wayne Rooney will start for England in Thursday’s friendly with Portugal at Wembley. The 30-year-old came off the bench at the start of the second half and scored in England’s 2-1 win against Australia last Friday. But Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson has confirmed that his captain and most experienced player will lead the team out in their final pre-Euro 2016 warm-up game.
The manager also denied Thursday’s starting XI will be the team which faces Russia in next Saturday’s Group B opener, adding there are four or five players who must keep fighting for a place.
“I don’t need to try anything out any more,” explained Hodgson. “But I am not prepared to say the side that starts tomorrow will start against Russia.”
Although Rooney will definitely start at Wembley, it isn’t clear yet exactly where the Manchester United star will play.
Striker Jamie Vardy missed the Australia match because of his wedding, but is in contention to partner Harry Kane.
Rooney could feature in a three-strong attack, while another possibility is for the skipper to play at the tip of a midfield diamond, although Hodgson might opt for Dele Alli in what is his favoured role at Spurs.
Much of the pre-match talk might be about man of the moment Marcus Rashford following his dream scoring debut against Australia and subsequent inclusion in Hodgson’s final 23-man Euros squad.
However, the youngster will probably be among the substitutes for the Portugal game.
Hodgson refused to name anyone else in his starting XI for the clash other than Rooney, although he did confirm full-back Ryan Bertrand would definitely sit the friendly out.
He said: “It’s not a concern. I’m afraid when you play two preparation games you run the risk of picking up a slight injury or knock, but it’s not a serious injury and we’re pretty confident he will be fit for when we play Russia.
“It’s an injury that will obviously keep him out of tomorrow’s game, but it’s not a long-term concern at all.”
Gary Cahill is fit after missing the Australia match through injury and will partner either Chris Smalling or John Stones at the heart of England’s defence.
England have won just one of their last 11 matches against Portugal (D8 L2), after winning eight of their first 11 clashes with them (D2 L1).
England’s last two meetings with Portugal have ended in penalty shoot-out defeats (3-1 in World Cup 2006 and 6-5 in Euro 2004).
Portugal are winless in their last nine friendlies against England (D5 L4) and have won only one of their 13 non-competitive contests overall.
The Three Lions have won 11 of their last 12 games on home soil, only losing to the Netherlands in March.
Portugal have won seven of their last eight internationals away from home (including neutral venues).
Hodgson has lost just three of his 21 games at Wembley as England manager (W16 D2).
Portugal have scored just three times in seven trips to Wembley and never more than once in a game. They last netted there in 1995.
England have conceded just three times in their last 10 games at Wembley, but two of these came in their last game there against the Netherlands in March.
Rashford became the youngest player ever to score on his senior England debut by netting against Australia. The last England player to score on his opening two appearances for the national side was Rickie Lambert in 2013.