FORMER Hull City central defender James Chester has told England’s strikers they are not in the same class as his Wales team-mate Gareth Bale.
Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy scored 49 Premier League goals between them last season, and England’s record goal-scorer Wayne Rooney will lead them out against Wales this afternoon.
The build-up to the game in Lens has seen players from both camps claim that they have the better team.
But Chester, who played over 150 games for the Tigers before an £8m move to West Bromwich in July last year, insists there is no argument when it comes down to who has the best player.
“They’ve got a lot of attacking talent, but I don’t think what they’ve got is anything like we’ve got in Gareth,” said Chester of the Real Madrid star.
“They’re certainly very talented individuals and they’ve got a lot of goals in them.
“But Gareth’s on a different level, he is just such a special player.”
England showed signs of defensive fragility in the build-up to Euro 2016, conceding seven goals in four games before beating Portugal 1-0 in their final warm-up game.
England switched off in the final seconds of their tournament opener when Russia scored a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 1-1 in Marseille.
“If there is a weakness in the England team it’s at the back,” claimed Warrington-born Chester, whose youth team career was with Manchester United.
“So, if we can keep it tight, then we’ll be confident we’ve got opportunities.
“Everyone in the group would take this game because a lot of us play in the Premier League and play against those individuals week in, week out.
“They’re obviously the team we know the most about and we’re confident that we can upset them.
“We just need to perform individually and as a team, and play like we did in the qualifiers.
“If we do that then anything’s possible.”
Chester has relatives coming out to Lens to watch the game – only the fifth meeting between the two countries since 1984.
But he says there is no case of split loyalties, with his family all cheering for Wales.
“I’ve seen a few friends and they’re not sure who to support,” said Chester.
“But my family are all behind me. They’re really excited and a lot of them will be at the game.
“It’s a huge game for everyone involved to play your rivals in such a major tournament.
“But I think it’s a blessing that it is our second game because not all our focus has been on England.”
Wales manager Chris Coleman admits he is fed up of the “small talk” surrounding the England-Wales game and says it is time to get down to business.
Coleman called it a “circus” when England are involved, and said his priority was keeping his players focused for the game and disciplined during it.
“We can’t worry about upsetting the opposition, whoever they are,” said Coleman.
“And we can’t be afraid to give our opinions. Whatever the lads think, that’s up to them.
“It was always going to turn into this: he said this, he said that. It’s about what happens on the pitch. All that other stuff is irrelevant. We don’t go into mind games.
“Let’s just get down to business tomorrow. This is small talk. It means nothing to me.”