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England seeks third straight European Championship qualifying win

England seeks third straight European Championship qualifying win

England seeks its third straight win in European Championship qualifiers on Saturday with a likely new 3-5-2 formation spearheaded by high-scoring Peter Crouch and struggling Wayne Rooney.
On the eve of the Group E game against Macedonia at Old Trafford, England coach Steve McClaren said he was keen for his players to adapt to different systems.
"We can play 4-4-2, we've proved that," McClaren said Friday. "We've played three games already doing it. We've won them, we've scored 10 goals and conceded none.
"But I want to be flexible in different systems ... because at times we might need to be that way. I'm very confident the players can adapt to that."
Rooney is due to start with Liverpool's Crouch for the first time since the Manchester United striker was sent off in the World Cup against Portugal.
England defender Gary Neville _ now the most senior player in the squad with the continued absence of former captain David Beckham _ said there was too much focus on formations.
"You can get bogged down on systems sometimes," he said. "It's not rocket science, it's not something that's never happened before.
"It's something that should be seen as a positive. The manager knows that we can play 4-4-2. He wants to be in a position to be armored with a plan B, and maybe even a plan C."
McClaren often favored a 3-5-2 system when manager of Middlesbrough and said it helped his preference for an attack based on wingers.
"I like width, I like to dominate the midfield," he said. "You can use it to defend and you can use it to attack."
McClaren is seeking his fourth straight win since taking over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after England was eliminated in the World Cup in the quarterfinals on penalties.
England hasn't conceded a goal since _ winning a friendly against Greece (4-0) and beating Andorra (5-0) and at Macedonia (1-0) in qualifying. Crouch scored five goals in those matches for a total of 11 goals from 14 appearances.
Rooney missed those three games with injury and suspension and he's only played six games since the World Cup. He hasn't scored since the opening day of the English Premier League season and netted his 11th England goal last November.
"There's been much criticism about Wayne Rooney and his form," McClaren said. "And yes, he's not got back into the rhythm and that's understandable because of the amount of games he's played over the last six weeks, which haven't been many."
Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves and Aaron Lennon are out injured, and McClaren has called up Scott Parker to the England squad for the first time in two years.
If McClaren choses a 3-5-2, Saturday's midfield will likely feature Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Shaun Wright-Phillips, with left back Ashley Cole moving forward to leave Neville, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in defense.
England has won its last eight matches at Manchester United's ground _ and Saturday's game could be its last at the ground as Wembley stadium nears completion.
England leads Group E with six points from two games. It plays at Croatia on Wednesday.


Updated : 2021-02-27 20:58 GMT+08:00