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World Cup 2018

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Home Sport Football

England will face Nigeria’s strongest side at Wembley

Gernot Rohr is expected to pick the side to start against Croatia in their World Cup opener on June 16.

England will be confronted by the team Nigeria expect to start the World Cup when they host them at Wembley in Saturday’s friendly.

In both countries’ penultimate fixture before they both travel to Russia, they also face a group playing to lift goalkeeper Carl Ikeme in his battle against leukaemia.

While Saturday represents a further chance for Gareth Southgate to experiment with his team ahead of one final friendly against Costa Rica before their World Cup opener against Tunisia on June 18, Nigeria will play their strongest XI.

Their manager Gernot Rohr also knows they have a friendly against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, but their captain John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho will be among those expected to start.

“We will try to play with our best team,” said the 64-year-old Rohr, from Germany.

“We will try to see the team that has the chance of starting the World Cup against Croatia. This is a World Cup match for us.

“It’s very exciting to play in this wonderful stadium.

“I heard the coach of the England team say they want to win the World Cup in 2022, so we can say the same (of our youthful team).”

Of Wolves’ Ikeme, 31, who last played first-team football in March 2017 and may have proved the solution for a team often accused of lacking a convincing goalkeeper, Rohr added: “There is also the opportunity to have a think about our sick goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme.

“He’s in England, and struggling for his life, and we will play for him at this World Cup.”

England’s team has changed significantly since the 31-year-old Mikel left Chelsea for China’s Tianjin Teda in January 2017, and he said: “This is a very young England team, the same as Nigeria.

“There’s been a lot of changes – much younger players, a new team, a young coach.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and motivation in the national team. The players want to do well – you can see from how they play, the change in system to five at the back. They’re more compact, concede less goals. This is helping them.”

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