Sunday 26th March. 5PM. ITV 1
The Road to Russia continues as England take on Lithuania in their first qualifier of 2017. Not only is it the start of a new year, it’s the start of a new manager’s full-time competitive reign.
England will expect a big result as they edge closer towards the World Cup, and the midweek performance in Germany is another reason for optimism. Will the Three Lions provide the Sunday feast we’re all hoping for, or will Lithuania spoil the party?
Road To Russia Looking Smooth For Southgate’s Stars
After a successful stint as interim manager, Southgate began his permanent tenure with a 1-0 friendly loss in Dortmund. However, the former U21s boss will be enthused by what he saw and will expect to see a big scoreline from his side here.
England do have a number of noticeable absences, but the quality of Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Adam Lallana should be more than enough to see off one of UEFA’s smaller footballing nations. After all, the Three Lions picked up 3-0 and 4-0 wins in the previous qualifying campaign en route to Euro 2016.
Southgate does have a number of decisions to make, and could stick with the 3-4-3 formation used in Germany. Meanwhile, competition for places throughout the squad ensures that there will be a few selection headaches in the build up.
In truth, though, whatever team Southgate opts for, England should win with ease.
Minnows Out To Cause An Upset
Lithuania may be one of the minnows of international football, but a return of five points from four games means that they currently sit just three points below second-placed Slovenia. If Edgaras Jankauskas’s side can do the unthinkable, their hopes of reaching a first major tournament would look brighter than ever.
The visitors have already caused an upset on British shores in this campaign too, holding Scotland to a 1-1 draw in October. Nonetheless, a 4-0 loss to Slovakia in their most recent qualifier, combined with a 3-0 friendly defeat to the Czech Republic on Wednesday would suggest that they are in for an uphill battle.
A squad void of any household names is unlikely to trouble England, but many of them have already played at Wembley so they may stand a better chance of overcoming the occasion. Nonetheless, it’s hard to see them overcoming the hosts.
Even a draw would be amazing for the visitors, and they will aim to frustrate the Three Lions. With a positive start, they’ll be more than capable of keeping it respectable. Once they concede, though, the game is virtually over.
England v Lithuania Betting
Unsurprisingly, England are heavy favourites for this clash and are available at odds of just 1/9 with Unibet. Lithuania, meanwhile, can be backed at 20/1 and the draw is priced 8/1.
England should coast to victory in Southgate’s first competitive match as full-time boss, and he’ll want a better performance than the drab 2-0 win over Malta in his first game as temporary boss back in October.
England should score goals, and the attacking players will be licking their lips at the prospect of having many chances. Rashford is expected to lead the line and could be a great shout for a goal in 90 minutes at Evens. Just remember to check for the confirmed team news first.
Whether Southgate opts for three or four at the back seems irrelevant, as the defence is very unlikely to encounter many dangerous moments. In truth, a fifth consecutive clean sheet in qualifiers looks almost certain.
You very rarely see the sixes and sevens in international football these days, but this is a game in which England should score frequently. At 15/2, a 4-0 win is well worth a punt.