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Group E: Sunderland At The Euros

What do Seb Larsson, Emanuele Giaccherini and John O'Shea have in common? And no, the answer isn't 'they're all pretty much nailed on to leave in the summer', but it is that they are all playing for their country at the European Championships this summer in Group E. With that in mind, Sunderland supporters will likely take a keen interest in the goings on in that group, and as so we have taken a look at each player ahead of the tournament starting next weekend.

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Sebastian Larsson - Sweden - 83 Appearances, 6 Goals

The 2015/2016 season was probably one of the worst in recent memory for Seb Larsson, as for much of the campaign he wasn't fit and, when he was, he wasn't really in the Sunderland team. On a personal level, it must have been hugely frustrating, especially as he is approaching the end of his career and would likely prefer to be playing on a more regular basis with the European Championships in mind.

Despite his lack of playing time this year, Larsson has featured fairly regularly for Sweden this season and is one of the most experienced players in their squad for the EURO 2016.

Larsson is often used on the right hand side for Sweden - the competition for places in the centre of midfield is pretty strong - so he'll likely find himself competing for a start with Olympiacos winger Jimmy Durmaz, who is perhaps a more creative wide man than Larsson is. With tough games against Belgium and Italy meaning Sweden will likely be on the back foot and have to defend well if they are to achieve results, Larsson will likely start in those games, with his work rate off the ball his greatest asset.

His last goal for his country came at EURO 2012 against France, and his tournament experience could be vital, especially as Sweden are in a tough group that also includes the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Italy.

You can catch Larsson's first game of the tournament against his former manager Martin O'Neill's side at the French national stadium, the Stade De France, on Monday the 13th of June at 5pm over on BBC1.

Any team that has a world class player in their side are capable of overachieving in a tournament, and with Seb in their side who knows how well Sweden can do.

Zlatan... who?

Emanuele Giaccherini - Italy - 24 Appearances, 3 Goals

Despite spending the entirety of last season away on loan at Serie A side Bologna, where he scored eight goals as his side finished fourteenth in the table, Sunderland fans will still have a keen eye on the progress of Emanuele Giaccherini, particularly as his performances for Italy in the tournament could earn Sunderland a nice little fee when we sell him in the summer.

Italy manager Antonio Conte may be headed to Stamford Bridge to take over as manager of Chelsea once the tournament is over but he's firmly focused on winning this year's competition and at the hub of his midfield with be our very own Giaccherini, a player that Conte is a massive fan of.

Conte signed Giaccherini when he first took over the job at Juventus and featured him heavily throughout his time there. And, since becoming Italy manager after leaving his post at La Vecchia Signora, Conte has continued to use Giaccherini in his national side, even when he wasn't playing regularly at Sunderland.

The Italians tend to operate with a back three, with Giaccherini playing on the left of the midfield to provide cover when on the defensive - that said, when Italy took on Scotland on Sunday night he played further inside, perhaps insinuating that he'll start in the middle with Manchester United's Matteo Darmian preferred on the flank.

He's always performed well in his role for his country and, with Conte such a huge fan, we can expect Emanuele to start in just about every game for the Azzuri over in France.

Giaccherini's last international goal was back in 2013 in a friendly with Nigeria which took place at Fulham's Craven Cottage, a nicely-worked team goal rounded off by Emanuele, who found himself in plenty of space before finishing well.

So, all things considered, we can expect Emanuele to feature heavily for the Italians in France and, should he do well, we might even see Conte be persuaded to take Giaccherini to Chelsea with him when he rocks up there in July. Who knows.

John O'Shea - Republic Of Ireland - 110 Appearances, 3 Goals

Sunderland captain John O'Shea will surely start and finish just about every game that the Republic of Ireland play over in France, with a lack of options in his position combined with his experience as a footballer meaning he's almost guaranteed to be playing for Martin O'Neill's side.

O'Shea is a player that both O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane know and trust, meaning it will be one of Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy or Ciaran Clark to partner him in their opening group game against Seb Larsson's Sweden, tasked with containing the almost un-containable Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

O'Shea didn't play a great deal of football towards the end of the season for Sunderland but has started regularly for his country. The Irish haven't had a great pre-Euro campaign, losing their lead and drawing with the Netherlands last Friday and then losing 2-1 against lowly Belarus on Tuesday evening.

O'Neill experimented on Tuesday night against Belarus and partnered backup options Keogh and Clark together and they hardly covered themselves in glory, leaking two goals, so the partnership of O'Shea and Blackburn Rovers man Duffy is the one I'd expect will start in that opening match at the French national stadium in eleven days.

Group E TV Listings

Monday 13th June - 5pm (BBC) Republic of Ireland v Sweden, Stade de France, Paris

Monday 13th June - 8pm (BBC) Belgium v Italy, Stade de Lyon

Friday 17th June - 2pm (ITV) Italy v Sweden, Stadium de Toulouse

Saturday 18th June - 2pm (ITV) Belgium v Republic of Ireland, Stade de Bordeaux

Wednesday 22nd June - 8pm (ITV) Italy v Republic of Ireland, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille

Wednesday 22nd June - 8pm (ITV) Sweden v Belgium, Stade de Nice

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