Euro 2012: Avoid defeat at all costs
I'd play Ashley Young and Theo Walcott out wide with Gerrard pushing up, ahead of Scott Parker and James Milner, to support Welbeck
Lee Dixon can't wait for Roy Hodgson's men to get going against France in Euro 2012, firmly believing England can contain a talented attack and pick up a valuable point against the French.
Organisation is key in international tournaments and England have a manager who specialises in it. Roy Hodgson has had little time to prepare for Euro 2012 but the fact that he's the first England boss to have managed at international level before bodes well. One of the reasons Hodgson was unpopular as a Liverpool manager was that he emphasises focus and discipline ahead of flair but, if England string together a few more 1-0 wins over the next few weeks, fans won't be complaining.
England may have lower expectations than at recent tournaments but I think that's a good thing. France are favourites to win Monday night's Group D opener but England might relish underdog status. Laurent Blanc has done a good job since taking over after the 2010 World Cup where Les Bleus failed spectacularly. They're a formidable side and I'm told that they fancy their chances here, but they're by no means unbeatable.
Avoid defeat. That's the most important thing in your opener, especially when it's likely to be your toughest Group match. A draw would be a very good result for England and it would be a decent start for the French too.
France are stronger than England in attack. Karim Benzema has had a good season with Real Madrid and is fast establishing himself as one of the world's most potent strikers. France struck nine goals in their warm-up friendlies and they have match-winners throughout the team. John Terry and Joleon Lescott will be wary of Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri in particular.
They might be vulnerable in defence. I've never been convinced by Phillippe Mexes and Patrice Evra had a mixed season with Manchester United. Whether it's Stewart Downing pumping crosses in for Andy Carroll or Steven Gerrard feeding Danny Welbeck, England's depleted strike force might surprise their opponents. England will play on the counter-attack with Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson providing support for the wingers.
Personally, I'd go for it. I'd play Ashley Young and Theo Walcott out wide with Gerrard pushing up, ahead of Scott Parker and James Milner, to support Welbeck. However, I'm hearing that Carroll has got the nod with Young in the hole. A draw would suit both sides so that's what I'm backing.
It could easily be 0-0 at half-time. England won't mind France dominating possession and Hodgson will have his team set up to sit back, absorb pressure and hit their opponents on the break. Lack of pace in defence is a perennial problem for England so John Terry and Joleon Lescott need to be hyper-alert for the full 90 minutes if they aren't to be run ragged by Benzema and Ribery. I think England are astute and experienced enough to keep things tight and not buckle as they did when they met France at this stage eight years ago. I'm backing under 2.5 goals.
To score/To be shown a card
I was impressed by how Ashley Young took his chance against Norway; he could revel in the hole behind Carroll so I'll back him to score. Parker will make more tackles than anyone so he could pick up a yellow.
However, I'll back both England centre-backs to be shown a card as I can see them being drawn in to rash challenges by France's beguiling attack.