There is plenty at stake in Group B heading into the final matchday, as wins by England, Wales or Slovakia would all guarantee them passage into the knockout round. In the case of the Three Lions, a victory over Slovakia would clinch first place in the group. England would be hard-pressed to not advance even with a loss as one of the top four third-place finishers.
Wales and Slovakia are both on three points, though Wales holds the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of its 2-1 win to open group play. Still, a loss to Russia would all but doom the Red Dragons’ chances of advancing, while Slovakia would likely progress with a draw at worst.
Russia needs a win to have any chance of moving forward, and a victory by England in the other match would go a long ways to help that cause. Slovakia has six players on yellow cards entering its match against England, so it will have to balance a fine line between aggressive and reckless on challenges.
These picks cover the group matches for June 20, using a 4-4-2 formation and salary cap of $90,000 as part of Fan XT’s Daily Fantasy rules for the European Championships.
Goalkeeper: Igor Akinfeev, Russia ($7,880). There was some back and forth at this position, with perhaps opting for England’s Joe Hart, who is slightly more expensive at $8.060. While neither goalkeeper has turned in a clean sheet, Akinfeev has shown the better form of the two since Hart should have done more to keep out Gareth Bale’s free kick before England rallied to defeat Wales. Still, if you want to insert Hart into a DFS lineup, you can sacrifice Wales defender Joey Chester for a cheaper option.
Defenders: Vasiliy Bereuztskiy, Russia ($7,190). This is another reminder to select Vasiliy, who has started both games and scored a goal and not his twin brother Alexei, who has yet to come off the bench in either game for Russia. Prett much every pick on defense is being made with an eye on cap flexibility for attacking options at the midfield and forward positions. Since Bereuztskiy has a goal and has a chance to get forward against Wales, the CSKA Moscow man is as good a bet as any.
Sergey Ignashevich, Russia ($7,030) and Jan Durica, Slovakia ($7,030). While there is plenty of risk in taking the 36-year-old Ignashevich and the 34-year-old Durica to fill out a back line, these picks provide needed cap room. In the case of Ignashevich, the hedge is he might serve some purpose on corner kicks and perhaps put a shot on goal.
James Chester, Wales ($7,380). Chester will likely have his chances to go forward against Russia, which likes to play at a deliberate tempo. It will also allow Chester the chance to regroup and keep the back line in shape if and when Wales does decide to press. The lineup presented in this case leaves only $110 spare, and the spread between Akinfeev and Hart is $160, so if you believe in England that strongly, you could select Hart and drop Chester in favor of Chris Gunter, who counts only $7,160 against the cap.
Midfielders: Dele Alli, England ($7,750). So far, Alli has performed about as expected for England _ he’s done some good things on the ball and has been helping England keeping possession. With the expected changes to the Three Lions’ lineup that include Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy, that should mean Alli can find space to roam given Vardy’s tireless nature. This may be the game where the Spurs youngster finds a goal.
Vladimir Weiss, Slovakia ($7,190). After a mainly anonymous game against Wales, Weiss bounced back with flair against Russia, scoring a goal and assisting on Marek Hamsik’s match-winner. While England has not been exposed too much defensively, Weiss and Hamsik are easily the best midfielders the Three Lions have faced in group play, and their direct play should lead to scoring opportunities.
Marek Hamsik, Slovakia ($9,190). Hamsik set up Weiss for his goal before torching Akinfeev with a well-struck shot from a sharp angle. He has easily been Slovakia’s best player through the first two matches, and the Napoli man will likely give England fits.
Gareth Bale, Wales ($12,000). While Bales has done his scoring damage from free kicks from long distance in both kicks, and it can easily be argued both of them should have been saved, this match should give Bale license to roam without the ball given Russia’s tendency to sit back and not press. That means Aaron Ramsey will have to pick out Bale to create scoring chances, and perhaps that means free kicks from closer to the penalty area for the Real Madrid man to further inflict damage on goal.
Wayne Rooney, England ($9,500). Despite not having a goal or an assist, it is not out of lack of industry. Rooney had another solid game pulling the strings in England’s midfield versus Wales and also took over corner kick duties from Harry Kane. With Slovakia needing a result to proceed to the round of 16, this match should open up in the middle of the park, and that means the England talisman may finally break that scoring duck.
Jamie Vardy, England ($7,750). His meteoric rise to stardom added yet another chapter against Wales as he scored within 11 minutes of his entry at halftime to kick-start the Three Lions. That has likely earned him a spot in the starting lineup, and his relentless harassment of opposing defenders should serve him well in this match. Additionally, Vardy should be able to link up with Rooney, who is as heady a player in this tournament and will be able to quickly recognize how the Leicester City striker is moving.
By Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73)