Tonight’s crucial Euro 2012 Group D clash could well be won in the battle between John Terry and Andriy Shevchenko.
The pair spent two seasons together at Chelsea between 2006 and 2008, with the Ukrainian striker failing to show his very best in the Premier League due to a lack of form and a number of injuries.
It’s injury which again threatens to rain on Shevchenko’s parade, with the national team talisman rated as ’50-50’ by manager Oleg Blokhin to face the Three Lions in Donetsk tonight.
So is it simple mind games, or a major concern for the co-hosts? Having scored both their goals in the competition thus far, Ukraine will do everything to get the 35-year-old on the pitch and squaring off to John Terry.
The former England skipper has come through all of his tests thus far, although in-truth he was well protected by the midfield in the opening game against France at the same stadium as tonight’s clash.
In group game two, against Sweden, the 31-year-old was a little more exposed, and on occasions looked vulnerable, particularly when running back towards his own goal under pressure from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
When it came to one-on-one challenges against the AC Milan striker, Terry more than held his own against the mercurial forward, winning a number of tackles against his opponent.
That should stand him in good stead ahead of tonight’s clash against the Dynamo Kyiv hitman, who is happy to get physical but unlikely to out pace any of the back four.
With concerns over his knee, it will be more about target and hold-up play for Shevchenko than chasing balls into the corners and behind the defence. That will be a job for younger teammates.
The captain will look to use his football brain as much as anything, winning flick-ons and making an impact at set-pieces – something he did well against Sweden last Monday.
Terry & Co. will need to be aware of this particular danger, as they were exposed badly against the same team on Friday night twice, as Olof Mellberg showed a chink in the armour of Roy Hodgson’s side.
As the senior members of the defence, it will be up to Terry and Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole to improve the organisation of the side for some very big tests against the co-hosts.
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