- When: 7:45PM, Friday, September 1st, 2017
- Where: Ta’ Qali National Stadium, Attard, Malta
Following Wayne Rooney’s retirement announcement last week, England will begin life without their former captain for the first time in over 14 years on Friday night. The Three Lions should have no problems brushing aside an already eliminated Malta side though and Gareth Southgate will be hoping to put on a show for the travelling fans.
If England can beat Malta and then Slovakia during this double header, they will really tighten their grip on Group F and will be almost guaranteed of qualification with just two games left to play.
Jordan Pickford withdrew from the England squad following the weekend Premier League matches, but he will not be replaced due to Southgate having named Joe Hart, Jack Butland and Tom Heaton in the squad. It will be interesting to see whether Southgate sticks with Hart considering his poor form over the past couple of years and the fact he has conceded ten goals in his first three matches for West Ham United. If Southgate decides to make a change then Jack Butland will be ready and waiting to step in and make the number one spot his own.
Further forward, Nathaniel Chalobah and Harry Maguire will be hoping to make their England debuts against a Malta side who have lost every game in qualification so far and this might be the perfect opportunity for Southgate to blood some new talent. Harry Kane will be expected to lead the line with his Spurs teammate Dele Alli playing in behind him. Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling will be hoping to start on the wings and their pace could cause Malta all sorts of problems.
England have a surprisingly modest recent record against Malta, winning 2-0 at Wembley last October during this qualification campaign; Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli got the goals on that day, but Maltese goalkeeper Andrew Hogg kept the score line respectable with a string of fine saves. Previous to that, England won 2-1 in a friendly in Malta on a day where Martin Keown and Emile Heskey got the goals.
Despite their recent struggle for goals against the minnows of Malta, England should comfortably win this one and I’m expecting Southgate’s side to score three or four on Friday night.
England start this one as huge favourites at odds of 1/25, whilst an unlikely win for Malta is available at 50/1 and the draw 20/1. To find any real value you have to go to the Handicap market where England (-2) is 4/9 and (-3) is 11/10. Even though England should comfortably win here, they have struggled to put teams to the sword in recent years, so (-3) could be a bit of a stretch.
In terms of goal scorers, if you fancy Harry Kane to bag his first goal of the season, he is available at 9/4 to be the FGS and 4/9 to score at Anytime. Dele Alli to score at Anytime at 5/6 looks like a good bet to me though and you’d have to fancy that the Spurs man will get chances on Friday night.
Dele Alli to Score at Anytime – 5/6