Smalling reveals special plans for Russian danger man Dzyuba
Chris Smalling has revealed that England are attempting to devise a special plan to nullify the threat of Russia's towering forward Artem Dzyuba in Saturday's Euro 2016 Group B opener in Marseille.
The Manchester United centre-half is set to partner Chelsea's Gary Cahill in the heart of Roy Hodgson's defence after training as expected yesterday following a scare 24 hours earlier, which led to the 26-year-old returning to the team's hotel with an ice pack on his left knee.
Despite concerns over the solidity of England's back four - six goals have been conceded in five internationals this year - Hodgson is determined to exploit the experience of Smalling and Cahill in order to cope with the unique threat posed by Dzyuba.
At 6ft 5ins, the Zenit St Petersburg forward has been pinpointed as the biggest weapon in Russia's armoury. Dzyuba goes into Euro 2016 having scored nine goals in 18 appearances for his country, with six goals in eight games for Zenit in the Champions League last season.
With England aiming to secure an opening game victory ahead of next Thursday's encounter with Wales in Lens, however, Smalling admits that shackling Dzyuba has been a focal point of the team's tactical meetings this week.
"We have been watching videos this week," Smalling said. "He (Dzyuba) is a big guy and it will be a physical battle.
"But that is something in the Premier League that we face week in and week out and I enjoy it.
"We all have our individual battle and picking up the second balls is crucial, as well as not letting him dictate.
"Things like him being able to bring the ball down on his chest - we have to stop that. Our two central defenders will have to be very physical and aggressive against him.
"But as defenders in the Premier League, we are used to big guys and those challenges and it's something we enjoy as centre-backs." (© Daily Telegraph, London)