Martin Skrtel has admitted he would be willing to kick his Liverpool club-mate Daniel Sturridge if the striker were bearing down on goal as England and Slovakia seek to secure progress out of Group B at Stade Geoffrey-Guichard.
The centre-half, who is expected to end an eight-year spell in England this summer, could come up against a quintet of his Anfield team-mates, having also played with Raheem Sterling on Merseyside. His potential duel with Sturridge, who created one goal and scored another against Wales, has caught the imagination and Skrtel is ready to nullify the striker’s threat however he can.
“It’s not a normal situation but we’re professionals and this is part of the job,” Skrtel, 31, said. “I know them and they know me, though there’s more to the match than just that.
“In a game like this there are no such things as ‘friends’. You can be friends before or after the match but not out on the pitch where everyone will be giving his all for his team and doing his best to win the game. If you asked Daniel, he’d answer the same. We just try and do the best we can for our team. If that means having to kick him if he is through on goal, then yes. Of course I will.
“It will be a special occasion because I’ve been playing in England for so long but this is not only about Daniel Sturridge. It’s about the other strikers, too. We have to be ready as a team and to be better than them. We’re not looking at personalities but their strengths as a team. So it doesn’t matter if it’s Sturridge, Kane or Vardy. We have to control them and be better than them.
“These guys are club-mates but that can be as much of a disadvantage as advantage for me. We just have to be focused to try and neutralise their strengths and prevail with our own qualities. We have watched them a few times and know what to expect. We just have to take that knowledge into the game itself.”
Skrtel, who refused to comment on his future after Liverpool accepted a bid of around £5.5m from Fenerbahce, played under Roy Hodgson at Liverpool during the Englishman’s disappointing six-month spell as manager. “Obviously the time he spent at the club wasn’t very successful for us as a team,” the defender said.
“Personally I rate him highly because, in my eyes, he’s a quality manager. I never had any kind of problem with him. With his experience and quality, that made him a national team manager and he’s done great work with them. They won all the games in the qualifiers and have done well so far in the Euros. That’s the best answer.
“England are one of the best teams in the world but the pressure is on the English – even if they do have enough experience to handle it. The smaller countries have probably got more team spirit, especially when they come up against the big countries, and we showed desire, character and heart against Russia, fighting for 90 minutes. Our desire to win that game was massive and we got a good result in the end.
“We have [Marek] Hamsik, a star player for us, but our main strength is the team. We work together, and that’s our big strength. Whenever we’ve given 100% out on the pitch and added some individual qualities to that, we have always been successful,” Skrtel said.
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