Stuart Pearce has outlined the special plans England must make to nullify the threat of Kylian Mbappe in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
The Three Lions set up a mouth-watering last-eight clash with France by beating Senegal with a 3-0 victory in the Round of 16.
Coming up against Didier Deschamps’ side will be a real acid test of just how good Gareth Southgate’s England group actually are, especially as they go toe-to-toe with the world’s most exciting player.
Mbappe is absolutely on fire at the moment with the Paris Saint-Germain star already bagging five goals for the holders in this year’s competition, and Pearce admits England will have their work cut out.
Asked how you stop Mbappe, the England legend told talkSPORT: “Kyle Walker’s going to have to have the game of his life, there’s no doubting that.
“We’re going to have to stop the supply line to him.
“They’ve got a front four and real talent in that front four with Mbappe being the pick of the lot with his pace, his energy and his goal threat.
“You’ve got to stop the ball coming into him and then double up on him when he’ got the ball. To do that, you’ve got to press aggressively.”
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Asked if England should set up to catch France on the counter, Pearce said: “It might well be the situation as people point out.
“We’re probably a better side on the counter-attack so we might be a better side playing against better teams.
“Part of my bemoaning is when the opposition drops off like they did today, I don’t think we were particularly cute at playing through them with our holding midfielders.
“Yes, we’ll have to do that next week and it might be a game for the counter-attack.”
Historically, England have played with a back three in big competitions but this tournament has seen the Three Lions revert to a back four, something that Pearce believes should remain the case against Les Bleus.
He said: “I expect us to play with a four at the back, it’s just a case of whether he plays with a two, Declan [Rice] and another, rather than just Declan on his own with an advanced Bellingham or an advanced Henderson, whoever it may be.
“Henderson can play that role, it’s no problem for him. He’s probably the best out of him and Bellingham if you’re keeping the same three to play in the engine room.
“I wouldn’t be playing three centre-halves. We’ve come this far with a four, the French will play with a four and so I don’t see the need to change, I really don’t.”
Pearce added: “I understand the thought process [regarding a three-man defence]. We’ve gone with a three at times because the two have looked shaky, but I’m not sure how shaky they’ve looked in this tournament.
“I think that John Stones and Harry Maguire have been consistent performers in all of the games. The other one for me would be one of those midfielders who might have to sit in so that it’s a box of four.
“From there, if we’ve got threat from the left-hand side is to slide Rice over to double-up on the left side.”
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