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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

McClaren upbeat over Euro 2008 qualifiers

Steve McClaren is confident England will be a far more formidable outfit by the time they reach next month's key European Championship double-header with Israel and Russia.

A midweek home defeat to old rivals Germany does not seem the most positive way to approach a crucial double-header, which will go a long way to determining whether England reach next summer's finals in Austria and Switzerland.

However, while disappointed at the result, McClaren is refusing to lose sight of the fact a number of key players, including skipper John Terry, David Beckham and Michael Owen, have been badly lacking match practice recently.

And, with a couple of Barclays Premier League games to play, Carling Cup matches for some, European encounters for others and, in Beckham's case, four outings for LA Galaxy, McClaren feels it will be a far more advanced squad which meets up on Monday week as the important work begins.

'In some senses, the Germany game was like a pre-season match for us,' said McClaren.

'Yes, we were disappointed to lose but let's not get carried away.

It was a friendly; a preparation game for Israel and Russia, which are the main focus.

'It gave us a chance to look at one or two things and check on one or two personnel.

'We know a lot more than we did before and in two weeks' time, we will be in far better shape than we are at the present moment.'

After having his preparation for the Germany encounter effectively reduced to an hour's training on Tuesday because so many of his squad were involved in league combat on Sunday, McClaren at least knows he will have a full week to build up to Israel, with a further couple of days on top before Guus Hiddink's Russia arrive.

Although the doom merchants will argue nothing less than six points will do, four would probably be enough, provided another four are collected from an October double-header which includes a trip to Moscow.

Yet McClaren is acutely aware that for those minimum requirements to be met, England must eradicate the mistakes which he felt gifted Germany their win on Wednesday.

'We gave the ball away in bad areas and made mistakes,' observed McClaren.

'We must learn from that because we cannot afford to do that against Israel and Russia.'