Mar 25, 2011

Jagielka expects spicy Wales game

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England defender Phil Jagielka expects Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales to have extra "spice" because of the countries' traditional rivalry.

Jagielka could play alongside reinstated captain John Terry as England aim to go top in Group G.

"Both teams will be wound up from the off and the fans and the coaches will want a fast start," Jagielka said.

"There'll be a little bit of spice from the first whistle, which can hopefully only be a good thing for us."

While Jagielka conceded there are nations who "don't particularly like England", he said it was vital his team-mates retained their focus as they try to close the three-point gap to Montenegro.

"There's nothing we can do about that [nations not liking England], we've just got to go out there and do a professional job," said the Everton centre-back.

"I don't think we can afford to take a draw, we definitely have to go there for a win to get to the top of the table, three points is what we're going for.

"We're looking forward to it. When the draw came out we were delighted we got Wales because it will be a good game for the neutral and hopefully for the England fans."

Meanwhile, midfielder Gareth Barry feels the emergence of Jack Wilshere is good for England, while acknowledging the teenager could displace him in the side.

Wilshere will handle the atmosphere against Wales no problem
Former England captain Alan Shearer

With Steven Gerrard injured, Wilshere, Barry, Frank Lampard and Scott Parker will be vying to start.

Manchester City's Barry, 30, said: "I've never come to England squad and expected to be in a team and that's still the same.

"When players like Jack burst onto the scene it's extra competition.

"It's going to make selection for individuals tougher but I'm still sitting here, training hard and hopeful of being selected and if I am I'm confident I can put in a performance for my country.

"It's good for England that there are players like Jack who are bursting through and tougher for individuals to get their places."

Arsenal midfielder Wilshere started England's last game against Denmark, and Capello recently said the midfielder is one of the best young players he had seen.

Barry replaced the 19-year-old at half-time during the 2-1 victory in Switzerland, and has 45 England caps compared to Wilshere's two.

But before that game Capello was gushing in his praise for Wilshere, likening him to players such as former AC Milan greats Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and former Real Madrid star Raul.

Barry relaxed about midfield selection

And following Arsenal's Champions League last-16 ties against Barcelona, where the Gunners lost 4-2 on aggregate, Capello re-iterated his belief in the player, predicting he would be a future England captain.

Barry agrees that Wilshere had improved rapidly.

"The more somebody is involved and the more somebody plays the more their confidence grows and that's what I've seen in Jack Wilshere this year," he said.

Former England captain Alan Shearer also believes that Wilshere has the right temperament to deal with a fierce atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

"Wilshere will handle it well," Shearer told BBC Sport. "He's played in the Nou Camp against Barcelona and at the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal beat Barca, and arguably he was the Gunners' best player on both occasions.

"So he'll handle the atmosphere against Wales no problem."

Wales are bottom of the group, having lost their first three games.

But Barry believes past form will have little bearing on the game, which is the first between the two countries since 2005, when a Joe Cole goal earned England a 1-0 victory.

"Like any derby where a team has not started well, form goes out of the window," Barry said.

"All their players are going to be pumped up desperate to beat England. It's going to make it tougher for us, especially with Wales boss Gary Speed in charge for his first qualifying game.

"He will have the players stoked up with a full house behind him so we're expecting a tough game and we will give them the respect they deserve."

Jagielka added his belief that the game will be similar to that of a Premier League match.

"Maybe the pace of the game will be a little bit quicker than we are used to on the international stage but we've got the players to deal with that," he said.

"It would have been nice for Wales to have won all their games beforehand and made it more of an even contest in some of the public's eyes - we know we're clear favourites going into the game, but unfortunately clear favourites don't always win."



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