England friendlies preview: What the Three Lions can take from Spain & France clashes?

 © Tony O'Brien
As England prepare for the first of two high-profile friendly clashes against Spain on Friday in Alicante, fans back home will be watching closely to evaluate England's preparations for Euro 2016 against pre-tournament favorites.

These matches will be key to England boss Roy Hodgson, who rarely has the chance to experiment with his squad as major competitions loom large.

France 2016 is just on the horizon and these friendly matches are the training sessions, with Hodgson ready to run the rule over the in-form English players and attempt to gel his side before the competition proper.

Jack Butland’s big chance?

With England number one Joe Hart producing a glaring error during Manchester City’s close-fought 2-1 win over Norwich last month, many believe Stoke City’s Butland deserves a crack between the sticks in at least one of the two friendlies.

© Alan Walter

The 22-year-old has been in fine form for Mark Hughes’ side, keeping four clean sheets in his last five games, the last of which coming against champions Chelsea on the weekend. Statistically, Butland has the better of Hart, having played one game more, and Hodgson could well be intrigued to see how the young keeper fares against strong opposition with England.

All strikers to play

Roy Hodgson announced on Thursday that captain Wayne Rooney will not start Friday’s clash with Spain, with the England boss keen to give other squad members the chance to impress.

© Dylan Martinez

Rooney understands his manager’s wish to rotate the squad, saying: “It’s important especially in these games that the manager has a chance to see as many players as he can before the tournament in the summer. As a player you want to play, but you have to understand that there are bigger things to consider.”

With Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy an injury doubt, Tottenham striker Harry Kane is tipped to lead the line against Spain, with the 22-year-old having recently rediscovered his goal-scoring touch, bagging five in his last three top flight matches.

Sterling the senior

Man City attacker Raheem Sterling is one of just nine England squad members to have started 10 games or more for the national side, but despite their relative youthfulness on the international stage, the 20-year-old believes his side can throw down a marker for next summer’s tournament in France.

© Andrew Yates

“We are going to be playing some of Europe’s best teams and this is where we really get to see where we are in terms of the tournament in the summer. Hopefully we can show what we can really do – and if we can, it’s a real barometer of where we are.”

Ross Barkley is likely to be in the midfield with Sterling on Friday, behind Kane, with much hope pinned on the Everton youngster after a host of dynamic performances for England.

Both Spain and France will provide stiff opposition, or so Hodgson hopes, with his new-look side in need of firm tests ahead of the Euros.

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