England Ready for World Cup Qualifier Against Malta
England will take on Malta tomorrow, in their first match since Sam Allardyce had to leave his position as manager of the team. Interim manager Gareth Southgate will take charge of the side, and he’ll be acutely aware that this is a match England are not only expected to win, but to win well. The fact that the match will be played at home will only increase the pressure for a strong performance.
After already having to deal with one injury problem, when Raheem Sterling was forced to withdraw from the squad – something that gave Andros Townsend a call-up to the team – Southgate now has to deal with issues in defence, as Phil Jagielka has been ruled out with injury. Many expect that this means that Burnley’s Michael Keane could make his international debut, and that he will partner Gary Cahill, who is expected to be fit for the match after missing training today.
The big talking point will be how Southgate uses Wayne Rooney – a hot topic of contention amongst fans for a while now. Will the captain be employed up front, or will he play in the centre of midfield? Or will Southgate be brave enough to drop him from the starting XI altogether? If Rooney doesn’t play up front, Southgate will have to choose from Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Daniel Sturridge, as Harry Kane has a long term injury.
Many are also wondering if Jesse Lingard will pick up his first international cap against Malta, after being called up to the senior squad for the first time. There’s also a chance that Michail Antonio could make his debut for the team, after not featuring in the first World Cup qualifier, which saw a 1-0 win for England against Slovakia.
Scotland are also in action tomorrow, and they will take on Lithuania, as they look to keep up their 100% record in the group. They’ll be without Alan Hutton though, who has a calf injury, and it is expected that Callum Paterson will start in his place. Scotland will be favourites to win the match, however there’s no doubting that Lithuania will present a much sturdier test for Gordon Strachan’s side than Malta did.
Northern Ireland will also play tomorrow, and they face a home tie against San Marino – a match that they are expected to win easily. The biggest talking point before the match is whether Kyle Lafferty should start, after not making an impact in the last game and not getting much action for Norwich since. A win for Northern Ireland would leave them on four points, and in a strong position in the group – although they are yet to face favourites Germany.
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