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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
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 By Steven Kelly

Nathaniel Clyne an unsung hero for Liverpool and England

The ESPN FC crew debate England's chances at Euro 2016.

A lot of club supporters have little interest in international football, except where the performance and fitness of their own team's players is concerned.

England's 3-2 win in Germany on Saturday saw three Liverpool players in the away team and one in the home side.

Nathaniel Clyne played 90 in the win and while his Liverpool teammates Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana face fights for their places at Euro 2016, it is looking likely Clyne will be Roy Hodgson's first choice for right-back when the tournament begins.

He did not have an especially great game but did enough to secure his position. That will also come as good news for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.

Clyne has been one of the few successes in a frustratingly inconsistent season but his last two club matches weren't his best. He was given the run around by Manchester United's Anthony Martial in the Europa League second leg though Liverpool eventually emerged with the 1-1 draw they needed to progress.

Then Clyne was switched to left-back for the trip to Southampton as the Reds squandered a 2-0 lead to eventually lose 3-2.

Clyne was solid enough against Germany and has hopefully recovered his form ahead of the final games in Liverpool's season. He delivered the cross that Jamie Vardy converted to equalise, though the Leicester man did most of the work with an excellent back heel finish to beat Manuel Neuer.

The former Southampton defender is a return to a modern Liverpool trait which goes way back to Phil Neal, with Markus Babbel a more recent rock in Liverpool's cup triumphs in 2001. He was succeeded by Steve Finnan and Alvaro Arbeloa, also players who rarely caught the eye but could be fully relied upon.

The defensive record of the side during Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez's eras is testament to how such unspectacular but dependable performers like the right-backs mentioned alongside players like Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher contribute to the cause, leaving the flashier, headline-grabbing stuff to others.

Jon Flanagan sometimes looks like he could become another part of this sequence, encouraging managers to play the likes of Clyne and Glen Johnson on the left, where Liverpool's choices have been far less successful over the years.

In a way that ends up diluting their contribution, and indeed Flanagan was left-back for much of the title challenge during 2013-14. Better to find a solution for one position and leave the player there, much like United did for many years with Gary Neville.

Coincidentally, Germany also plumped for a Liverpool player at right-back. Emre Can played efficiently enough and certainly couldn't be blamed for any of the goals.

Joachim Low has often chosen him for right-back; a daunting role given its previous exponent was the excellent Philipp Lahm. Liverpool fans will hope it's not giving Klopp any ideas, not just because since Clyne is a quality performer.

Memories of Can as Liverpool's right-back aren't good. Last season he was in that position for two late-season hammerings -- 4-1 away to Arsenal and the utterly dreadful 6-1 thrashing on the last day at Stoke.

Nathaniel Clyne has had a steady season at Liverpool following his move from Southampton.

Liverpool fans would prefer their players to play international football in their proper positions. Can has improved a lot in the central midfield place vacated by the injured Lucas Leiva. Hopefully he will just slot back into that role for Liverpool next Saturday, particularly as opponents Tottenham are very strong in midfield themselves.

Preferably, Liverpool would have four or five of such unspectacular but steady performers to build their next great team upon. Clyne, Can and Henderson certainly fit that bill but it makes assessment of their future contribution difficult as Klopp seeks to add new blood or to coax more spectacular match-winning feats from the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge.

When he arrived at Anfield, Clyne was expected to contribute more to attacking play. Liverpool's overall struggles have perhaps meant a leash being put on Clyne for the moment, as Klopp sought solutions to Liverpool's continuing defensive frailty.

There will be few fears of any let-up in Clyne's performances as the season drifts to its conclusion. Liverpool have little chance of reaching the top four and some players could be tempted to ease up for Euro 2016.

Not Clyne. Firstly, he's not that kind of player. Secondly, his England place is not completely guaranteed yet and a late claim from Tottenham's Kyle Walker would certainly be aided by a league title for the Londoners. Hodgson may select him for England's Tuesday game with Netherlands.

Those fans who belittle international football often pay scant respect to the players' own ambitions. The current mood in England may be the usual pre-tournament overconfidence, something which can't help but be aggravated by that win over Germany.

However, there's no doubting they stand a chance in Euro 2016. Based on his performances this season, Clyne deserves to play a regular role in that campaign, albeit a largely unsung one.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

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