Yesterday saw us begin our group-by-group run down of the last few weeks’ worth of friendly action as Friday’s kick-off edges ever-closer. Having run the rule over Group A, we turn our attentions to Group B. Assessing the four candidates’ recent form, injuries worries and lineups, we reflect on their respective performances and look for potential signs of starting XIs prior to Holland and Denmark getting the group underway at 5pm next Saturday.
The Danes played just two friendlies as part of their build-up to the Euros. Morten Olsen’s men slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Brazil before seeing off Australia 2-0 in front of their own fans in their final warm-up match last Saturday.
Nicklas Bendtner got the ball rolling by grabbing the consolation against the Brazilians on May 26, with midfielder Niki Zimling atoning for an earlier own goal by providing the assist. Intriguingly, Daniel Agger looks to be on penalties – he grabbed the opener in the Australia game after being felled in the box, while another centre-half, Andreas Bjelland, notched the second after a scramble in the box. Priced at 5.5, Agger’s spot-kick duties have certainly heightened his appeal in the McDonald’s game – he is the second most popular Danish player with 12.9% ownership but given the calibre of his three group opponents, there is surely better value elsewhere.
With Thomas Sorensen ruled out of the tournament due to a back injury, Stephan Andersen has been chosen ahead of Man United’s Anders Lindegaard as the Danes number one over– priced at 4.0 in the McDonald’s game, he is the cheapest nailed-on stopper of any of the participants. Elsewhere in the backline, the only question mark surrounds Agger’s likely partner at centre-half; having started both those recent friendlies, Simon Kjaer is favourite, though Bjelland did his chances no harm by notching against Australia. Perhaps the only other question mark is in midfield, where Christian Poulsen and William Kvist will vie for a slot alongside Christian Eriksen and Zimling in Olsen’s favoured 4-3-3 formation.
Likely Starting XI: Andersen; Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S Poulsen; Zimling, Kvist, Eriksen; Rommedahl, Bendtner, Krohn-Deli.
Similar to Denmark, Joachim Low’s side have also played just two recent friendlies. The Germany boss rested all his Bayern Munich contingent against Switzerland after their Champions League exertions and watched on as his charges slumped to a 5-3 defeat, while a 2-0 triumph over Israel was largely uninspiring.
Mats Hummels, Andreas Schurrle and Marco Reus all netted in the defeat against Switzerland but it’s far from certain any of the trio will feature when the Germans kick off their campaign against Portugal on Saturday. Schurrle continued his impressive form by climbing off the bench to notch the second against Israel – Mario Gomez grabbed the opener, with Thomas Muller providing the assist.
There are a couple of issues at the back for Low to iron out. Although Philipp Lahm is nailed-on, the Germany boss is still unsure over which flank he favours him on – if Lahm plays on the left, Jerome Boateng looks likely to earn a start on the opposite side, while Lahm on the right would afford Marcel Schmelzer a chance in the first XI. Both Boateng and Schmelzer started a game apiece in those friendlies, suggesting neither is certain of a place in the side. A starting place for Schmelzer would be ideal for Fantasy managers; priced at 6.0 in the McDonald’s game, he is the cheapest player available in the German backline – Boateng is 6.5 but has an 11.6% ownership, despite the uncertainty surrounding his starting place. At centre-half, Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker will battle for a place alongside Holger Badstuber – at 6.5, the latter is the cheaper of the two by 0.5 in the McDonald’s game.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has failed to feature in either of the recent friendlies due to injury but is reported to have returned to training and is expected to be ready for the Portuguese game. Up front, it’s the million dollar question: Miroslav Klose or Mario Gomez? It’s anyone’s guess, really, but Klose’s experience in big tournaments could well see him get the nod.
Likely Starting XI: Neuer; Boateng, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Lahm; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Muller, Ozil, Podolski; Klose.
The Dutch played four friendlies over the past few weeks, including a game against Bayern Munich. Bert Van Marwijk’s decision to field a weakened backline saw his side downed 3-2 by the Bundesliga runners-up, while a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bulgaria was their first at home in 19 matches. More encouragingly, they recorded a couple of wins and clean sheets in the other two games, with Slovakia and Northern Ireland beaten 2-0 and 6-0 respectively.
In the Bayern game, Jan Klass Huntelaar and Luciano Narsingh grabbed the goals, with Dirk Kuyt and Rafael Van der Vaart providing the assists. Van der Vaart also found the net in the win over Slovakia, with the other Dutch goal coming courtesy of an opposition player. Wesley Sneijder provided an assist for Robin Van Persie’s consolation against Bulgaria before the Dutch ran riot against a weakened Northern Ireland; Van Persie grabbed a brace and pair of assists, Sniejder returned a goal and assist, while Ibrahim Afellay also scored twice and picked up an assist – priced at just 6.5 in the McDonald’s game, he looks an intriguing proposition, with a mere 5.7% ownership.
At the back, Van Marwijk is sweating on the fitness of Joris Mathijsen. The centre-half was forced off after just 19 minutes of the Bulgaria match but is reported to be on the verge of returning to full fitness – Wilfred Bouma and Ron Vlaar have each been handed a start apiece in Mathijsen’s absence. Jetro Willems looks to have edged ahead of Stijn Shaars for the left-back position; he has started three of the four friendlies in the absence of first-choice Erik Pieters and, at 5.0 in the McDonald’s game, offers the cheapest possible route into Holland’s backline.
Mark Van Bommel is nailed-on in the double-pivot, though Rafael Van der Vaart could come into contention if Van Marwijk opts for a more creative presence than Nigel De Jong to play alongside his son-in-law in front of the back-four. Van der Vaart’s versatility is likely to see him afforded game time as an impact sub further up the pitch, though – with two of the three attacking midfield slots nailed-on, it’s a battle between Dirk Kuyt and Afellay as to who starts on the left. Afellay has begun the last two, however, and looks to be in the driving seat. Robin Van Persie will lead the line, after Jan Klass Huntelaar revealed he is Van Marwijk’s second choice forward ahead of the opener against Denmark.
Likely Starting XI: Stekelenburg; Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems; Van Bommel, De Jong; Robben, Sneijder, Afellay; Van Persie
It’s fair to say that Portugal have been anything but impressive over their recent couple of friendlies. Paulo Bento’s side warmed up for their Group B opener against Germany with a goalless draw against Macedonia and a 3-1 home defeat by Turkey.
Cristiano Ronaldo set up Nani for the consolation against Turkey but failed to make his spot-kick duties pay, by missing another penalty in the defeat. Portugal have now chalked up just one victory in their last six matches and, despite returning three clean sheets over those games, look unlikely to replicate their defensive resilience against the Germans and the Dutch.
Bento tinkered with his starting XI for the Turkey game by making six changes to his side but, in all likelihood, the only real question is who leads the line for Portugal. The backline virtually picks itself, as does the midfield three, while Ronaldo and Nani will flank either Hugo Almeida or Helder Postiga up top; Almeida comes in at 7.5 in the McDonald’s game, 1.0 less than Postiga, though with 1% and 0.3% ownership respectively, either player offers a differential option should they manage to nail down a slot in the starting XI. Almeida came on for Postiga just after the hour mark against Macedonia and started the Turkey game, suggesting he may be Bento’s favoured frontman.
Likely Starting XI: Patricio; Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles; Nani, Almeida, Ronaldo.
Fantasy Football Scout Euro 2012 Leagues
Fantasy Football Scout are running several leagues and tournaments over various games for the Summer tournament…
We’re running two Tournaments in the Picklive game, a free to enter league here and a £5 entry with prize pot league right here. There’s also £2500 in the prize pot for Picklive’s big tournament game.
Our McDonalds UEFA Euro 2012 League code is : 638-996