England host Lithuania in their fifth qualifying game of this World Cup campaign. England are expected to win this game with ease but the Lithuanians have started this campaign well and harbour their own aspirations of making it to Russia.
England currently top the group having accumulated ten points from their opening four games. Their only failure to win came away in Slovenia as they drew 0-0. This will be Gareth Southgate’s first competitive game since taking the job on a permanent basis.
His start in charge of the Three Lions has been a positive one, with his only defeat coming in the friendly against Germany on Wednesday. He is reported to have given a stern but inspirational talk to his players earlier in the week, outlining what he was hoping to achieve with the national side.
His England squad is certainly not at full strength. Harry Kane is out with an ankle injury, Wayne Rooney has been left out due to a lack of game time, Phil Jones has reportedly broken his toe in training and Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge both miss out with ongoing injury problems.
England may consider using the 3-4-3 line up they tested against Germany in midweek, and will be looking to show attacking flair as they take on one of Europe less prestigious sides. There were plenty of positives to take from midweek with Dele Alli and Adam Lallana both impressing in the free roles behind the ever-willing runner, Jamie Vardy.
Anything other than a win for England would be a disaster and they are yet to concede a goal in qualifying. This solid defence will be something that Southgate will be hoping to build upon and maintain in a major tournament.
Lithuania held Slovenia at home to a draw and gained a very creditable draw away to the Scots in October. They did what every side should do in this group and beat Malta 2-0, the same score line England managed however their most recent competitive performance was also their worst as they were smashed 4-0 away in Slovakia. They do have a small chance of qualifying and it will be the games against those around them rather than this one, which they are expected to lose.
England do have a couple of players coming into this international break in great form. Dele Alli now has 14 league goals this season whilst Jamie Vardy seems to have found his scoring boots again at Leicester City. At the back, Gary Cahill has been performing well at league leader Chelsea and John Stones seems to be improving with every game under Pep Guardiola. Stones is set to replace the suspended Cahill for this game.
Will Keane of Burnley and Southampton duo Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse all played some part in midweek. Southgate is apparently leaning away from the ‘big club bias’ that has hindered England for many years now. The recall of in-form Jermain Defoe also speaks volumes about his selection process.
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