England manager Roy Hodgson has played down concerns over Lithuania’s artificial pitch as his team attempt to complete a perfect qualifying campaign for the 2016 European Championship on Monday.
Hodgson’s men are the only team to have won all their group matches so far and, despite pledging to field an experimental side, he insists he is eager to make it a perfect 10.
The England boss admits the hosts will be better attuned to the synthetic playing surface but, having won 3-0 there with Fulham in a 2009 Europa League fixture, insists it will be no excuse for failure.
“The surroundings are of no interest whatsoever. I have actually been to the stadium myself because I played a game against a team called Vetra with Fulham there over six years ago,” said Hodgson.
“I know the surroundings, I know the stadium; I thought it was a very nice stadium. Obviously we don’t play on artificial surfaces all the time, but most of our players have some experience.
“I am not overly concerned about that. The ball will run true and we need to make sure we play the sort of football that will be necessary to win the game.”
England are expected to be much changed from the team that beat Estonia 2-0 at Wembley on Friday, thanks to goals from Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling, with Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland set to start in place of rested No1 Joe Hart.
Everton centre-back Phil Jagielka is to be captain, in the absence of fellow defender Gary Cahill – another player spared the trip – and injured striker Wayne Rooney, while Hodgson has strongly hinted that Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and Leicester forward Jamie Vardy, who came off the bench to tee up Sterling last week, may start.
“We have a very interesting team for Phil to lead out,” Hodgson added. “We are ready for the task and will do our level best to win. We respect Lithuania. They did very well to get a draw against Slovenia. We will face a very well-organised team.”