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U21 European Championship Group B Preview

Stuart Pearce will of course be preoccupied with how his own team perform against Italy tonight, but the England Under-21 coach will also have more than just a passing interest in the two games being played tomorrow night in Group B – Spain v Russia and Germany v The Netherlands.

For it is games later this month against the two powerhouses at this level, Spain and Germany, that will ultimately decide England’s fate in this tournament if, as expected, they progress from the weaker Group A to the semi-finals.

Defending champions Spain (13/8 to retain the trophy) kick off their campaign against Russia and it will be quite a surprise if they don’t secure all three points – Coral go 4/7 they win with Russia 5/1 and the draw at 11/4.

Opening games in these round robin groups are often cagey affairs, but the Spain youngsters, like their senior counterparts, are all about attacking flair and adventure and will surely prove too strong for Russia, who have never been beyond the quarter finals in this tournament and have lost all three previous competitive encounters with tomorrow’s rivals.

Russia will also have to do without two of their best players, called up by the senior squad for a World Cup Qualifier against Portugal on Friday, for this opener.

All in all, this looks pretty straightforward for Spain. 2-0 (13/2) or 3-0 (11/1) look quite likely outcomes.

Goal threats abound for Spain. Coral make Alvaro Vasquez 4/1 favourite to net first and then 5/1 Cristian Tello, Alvaro Morata and Alarcon Isco. Tello, the Barcelona winger, has a bit of a selfish streak and a determination to show off his pedigree at this level makes him an attractive proposition to open the scoring.

Holland v Germany should be much closer and might well end up as a draw. There is an old and fierce rivalry here, even though the two countries haven’t met competitively at this level for almost 25 years, and we can expect a good battle.

Germany scored at a rate of almost four a game in the qualifiers and have a number of free-scoring forwards to call upon, including Kevin Volland (4/1 to score first), Sebastian Polter, Peniel Mlapa and Pierre-Michelle Lasogga (all at 5/1).

But the Dutch, while not as impressive as Germany in qualifying, are no mean side and have plenty of goal threats of their own, including leading scorer, Georginio Wijnaldum, 6/1 to score first tomorrow night.

There might be a few goals in this and Coral’s 12/1 for a 2-2 scoreline makes some appeal with perhaps savers on 3-2 for either team (both scores 28/1).