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Switzerland V Rooney (England) preview

Gerrard has been keen to support Rooney and will hope they can continue their good start to qualifying tonight

It’s all eyes on Wayne Rooney tonight as the England man targets success on the pitch after a nightmare 48 hours on the front pages of the tabloids.

The Man Utd forward has seen allegations of encounters with prostitutes surface for the second time in his career so far with his marriage in the spotlight after a series of lurid allegations were made against him. We’ve all read them so we won’t go into them again here, instead we’ll look at how Rooney might respond.

The eyes of the world will be on the forward with pundits from the US already comparing Rooney’s story to that of golfer Tiger Woods last year who has seen his form fall dramatically since a series of women came forward with similar allegations of his infidelity.

Rooney hasn’t had the easiest year, berating the England fans for their reaction to the team’s 0-0 World Cup draw with Algeria and sarcastically clapping after being substituted in the recent friendly against Hungary. His goal trail dried up at the tail end of last season too, however after a penalty against West Ham and an excellent showing against Bulgaria on Friday, Rooney could be forgiven for thinking he had turned a corner.

England's star man will hope to silence his critics on the pitch tonight

How he responds tonight will be interesting to see. The temperament of 17-year-old Rooney seemed to be gone for the most part until returning in recent months. Rarely booked, the forward had a superb season last year and was being hailed as an exemplary model footballer who had turned his career around under Alex Ferguson at Man Utd.

However the Rooney who was forced to board the steps alone for England’s flight to Switzerland cut a desolate figure, despite the likes of Milner, Gerrard and Capello insisting he was ready to play. However he will have huge support from his fellow pros and is unlikely to suffer the same sort of backlash as John Terry or Ashley Cole. Expect Rooney to play well tonight with a huge test of his character to come against boyhood club Everton away on Saturday (we wonder will Ferguson play him at all?).

However if things don’t go to plan in the opening stages it will be interesting to see how a frustrated Rooney will respond. Switzerland players know if they can subdue him or wind him up they may claim a reward of retaliation or petulance but they may also fire up a player who won’t shirk a challenge and will be ready to prove himself at what he knows best, playing football.

Switzerland V England

A big game then for Rooney but also for Capello. Switzerland beat the best team in the world in Spain not so long ago in one of the biggest World Cup shocks and under a tactically astute manager it Ottmar Hitzfeld will happily take a draw and try to hit England on the counter attack.

Gerrard said in his press conference that a draw would be a decent result but not for Capello it wouldn’t. The Switzerland team is an average one and with the tabloids baying for blood only a victory will suffice.

Interesting stat of the day: Between Hitzfeld and Capello, they have won 16 domestic league titles in Spain, Italy and Germany, as well as the Champions League on three occasions and with three different clubs (source: Daily Telegraph).

The Swiss team lacks many of the familiar faces from the past few campaigns but one man who will be crucial tonight is Alex Frei, Switzerland’s record goalscorer and captain. Frei would ordinarily expect to come up against Rio Ferdinand and John Terry but will tonight face two of Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Matthew Upson. Jagielka marshalled the defence against Bulgaria but will face a bigger challenge in trying to prevent a proven striker tonight in Frei. The form of Joe Hart behind the defence is a real plus going into the game however, with the England defenders gaining confidence from the Man City stopper being almost unbeatable at the moment.

Glen Johnson can provide key attacking support against a well-organised Swiss defence

Look out for: Glen Johnson.

Johnson could be crucial to unlocking a tough, well-organised Switzerland defence tonight. The Liverpool full-back has to do an awful lot of attacking for his club side Liverpool as he plays behind Dirk Kuyt who lacks the predatory instinct or pace of a traditional winger. This often leaves Johnson’s positioning open to question but he will relish the chance to link up with Walcott or Johnson who will leave space for him with their own attacking runs.
While the Swiss will attempt to close down England’s attacking players at every moment, Johnson will provide a crucial extra man going forward who can cross or shoot with both feet.

Prediction: Switzerland 1 England 2

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