Our footy scribe previews the 2018 World Cup qualifier between England and Scotland.
Gareth Southgate’s chances of securing the England managerial role in a full-time capacity will be greatly enhanced by securing victory over the old enemy here. England sit atop the standings in the group, three points ahead of Scotland who were rather unceremoniously beaten 3-0 by Slovakia last time out.
Though England sit atop the standings, their form has hardly been spectacular and the entire Allardyce saga has left a stain on the identity of English football. Scotland’s quest for resonance on the world stage seems to be in a state of disarray as injury concerns mount ahead of this clash at Wembley. So these two great rivals meet at points of mutual distress, hoping to find some solace with victory over their eternal neighbours.
2018 UEFA World Cup Qualifier | Friday 11 November | Wembley Stadium | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
England 7/20 | Draw 7/2 | Scotland 8/1
It’s funny, before the Euro’s, pundits everywhere were salivating over England’s seemingly endless barrage of striking options. Jamie Vardy has been dismal in front of goal this season, while Harry Kane has just recovered from injury and may require a bit more time. Marcus Rashford has shown glimmers of promise but remains in and out of the United fold. And Daniel Sturridge can barely get thirty minutes at Liverpool.
Theo Walcott is likely to leave the camp at any point as he awaits the birth of a child, leaving their previously vaunted striking options a bit thin. I think Southgate may opt for Sturridge. This may seem surprising, but the forlorn striker looked dynamic when he came on against Watford.
Jordan Pickford and Aaron Cresswell come into the side for the first time, with Danny Drinkwater injured while Jack Butland continues his recovery. I think he may opt for Nathaniel Clyne on the right-hand side after Kyle Walker picked up a painful looking blow in Spurs’ draw with Arsenal.
Eric Dier will likely slot back into the midfield alongside Jordan Henderson, a move that could prove problematic considering Dier has been playing in the heart of defence for Spurs since the injury to Toby Aldeweireld. Luckily for England, their issues seem to pale in comparison to the ones facing Scotland at present.
One really feels that Scotland’s best chance of playing in a major championship came and went when they failed to qualify for the Euro’s this year. There is just such a dearth of young talent really exploding onto the Scottish scene.
One just has to look at the fact that Kolo Toure is a starting central defender for giants Celtic to see the challenges facing Celtic. They have injury concerns in the full-back positions, with Hull’s Andrew Robertson and Celtic’s Keiran Tierney unavailable due to injury. Len Hutton has also made himself unavailable.
Scott Brown has apparently reconsidered his international retirement and has returned to the fold. In Darren Fletcher and James McArthur there is definitely some bite and experience in the midfield. Matt Ritchie has had an impressive season for Newcastle while Robert Snodgrass could prove crucial to the Scots from dead-ball scenarios. Striker Stephen Fletcher may miss out due to injury. The Sheffield Wednesday striker hasn’t scored in five consecutive games.
Fulham’s Chris Martin has been in far more prolific mood with four goals in his last five games. As you can see, from the amount of Championship clubs mentioned, there is a huge void between the talent that exists in this side and the English. And this isn’t a particularly confident group either.
Verdict: Under 2.5 Goals (8/10)
England will likely dominate the game in much the same way they did throughout the Euros. They just don’t have the penetration to make it really count. There’s little value in opting for the England victory, so I’m going for a tight affair, with England likely emerging victorious. Expect a 1-0 or perhaps 1-1 score-line and get on Under 2.5 Goals at 8/10.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets