Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson predicts an England victory in group opener

England face Russia in their Euro 2016 group opener on Saturday evening in Marseille.

Paul Merson - All Stars XIPaul Merson has backed England to beat Russia on Saturday

Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has predicted the outcome of England's opening Euro 2016 group game against Russia on June 11th.

Writing a column exclusively for Sky Sports, the former Arsenal man highlighted how important it is for England to put in a good performance on Saturday night, and pin-pointed the Three Lion's terrible performance against Portugal as something they must learn from:

England team group before the matchEngland will be hoping to get off to a winning start at the Euros

"Which England team are going to turn up? The one that played against Portugal? That was a shockingly terrible performance. Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane played full-backs, England never kept the ball and they were set up all wrong. It was unreal."

England will surely not be complacent when they take on the Russians in the Stade Velodrome. The Three Lions have struggled in the opening games of major tournaments in recent history, and a victory on Saturday night will be essential to their hopes of topping the group.

England manager Roy HodgsonEngland manager Roy Hodgson

This is England's ninth European Championship, and they are still waiting to register a victory in an opening game, following four draws and four loses in their previous eight attempts. Only once in the previous 26 years of European Championships and World Cups have the eventual winners lost their first game (Spain 2010).

Merson, however, feels that this time will be different, in spite of last week's horror show against Portugal:

"I'm going to be patriotic and back England to win, but they've got to improve."

Paul Merson predicts: England 1-0 Russia

England Training - EURO 2016England continue their preparations for the game against Russia

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch