Amid all the negativity that remains after a desperately poor World Cup, England open their campaign to reach the 2016 European Championships with a tough trip to Switzerland.
A strong performance in defeat against Italy in the humidity of Manaus seemed to take a lot out of England in June, as a Luis Suarez brace for Uruguay then saw them condemned to a group stage exit for the first time since 1958. Roy Hodgson is still the manager, but he will come under pressure should they struggle on the road to France.
Midfield mainstays Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have since decided to announce their international retirements, allowing Wayne Rooney to be handed the captaincy. His first game in the role saw him score the winner against Norway in a friendly on Wednesday, but the performance did little to increase any optimism that exists among the supporters.
On the bright side, England should qualify comfortably from Group E, which also includes Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia and San Marino. That should allow new faces such as Fabian Delph and John Stones develop in the international game, as Hodgson looks to build a settled side for the finals.
This trip to Basel appears to represent England’s toughest fixture in this group, with Switzerland having performed competently in the World Cup, only going out to an Angel Di Maria goal deep into extra time in their second round match. However, new boss Vladimir Petkovic may find it tough to follow on from the success enjoyed under Ottmar Hitzfeld.
The Swiss are still expected to be strong at the back, but they do carry creativity in the shape of Xherdan Shaqiri, who starred for them in Brazil. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Josip Drmic are also highly regarded across Europe, so England’s relatively inexperienced backline could come under some pressure.
Daniel Sturridge misses out in what is a major blow for England, so Danny Welbeck or Rickie Lambert could come into the side. Jordan Henderson is a doubt with an ankle problem, while Ben Foster and Jack Colback have both been forced to withdraw from the squad.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Switzerland