Saturday 8th November. 5PM. ITV
Under ordinary circumstances, an England home clash against Malta towards the start of a new qualifying campaign wouldn’t be anything to shout about. However, all eyes will be cast towards Wembley on Saturday for other reasons.
Those influences should ensure that this is a fascinating afternoon of football from London while there’s also a strong chance that there will be plenty of goalmouth action too. Let’s just hope we can win some money too.
Come on England!
England Face The Dawn Of Another New Era
Nobody could have predicted it a fortnight ago, but a series of truly mind-blowing events has resulted in a change of management at the England helm. Gareth Southgate is the man to succeed Sam Allardyce, at least for the next four matches, and he couldn’t ask for an easier start than a home clash with Malta.
After an embarrassing few months for the Three Lions, Wembley will expect something to cheer on Saturday. England will almost certainly seal the three points before heading out to Slovenia for Tuesday’s third qualifier. But they’ll need to do more than that to reinstate a sense of optimism.
Without making too many changes, Southgate has picked a squad that will please many. The inclusions of Marcus Rashford, Michail Antonio, and Jesse Lingaard are all positive moves – as is the late call-up for Burnley’s Michael Keane.
Meanwhile, it could be the perfect game for the likes of Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, and Wayne Rooney to regain their confidence. It will be one-way traffic for England at Wembley, but the first look at Southgate’s side should be intriguing to say the least.
Malta Dare To Dream
Under normal circumstances, Pietro Ghedin’s minnows would simply be excited about the prospect of visiting Wembley. Following the bizarre chain of recent events, however, Malta might just have a chance of causing a major upset.
A lot of English supporters will remember captain Michael Misfud, and the former Coventry City man would love to seal a piece of history by firing his country to a famous win. It’s difficult to see how the visitors will cope with the combination of minimal possession and big pitch, especially if Southgate picks some of those youthful stars. But the visitors can afford to dream.
The minnows have scored in their last three matches, including once against Scotland in last month’s opening qualifier. Even a goal would be a major event for the Maltese, but they’ll be under no illusions. A heavy defeat is likely.
On the other hand, anything could happen in a manager’s first game, especially as the Three Lions have looked like frightened cubs in recent times. Regardless of whether Malta frustrate England, or completely capitulate, it should be an interesting evening.
England v Malta Betting
Despite the very public problems, England are overwhelming favourites for this encounter and are priced just 1/50 to get the win with Bet365. Malta can be backed to cause a major upset at 50/1 while the draw is available at 18s.
Southgate will be expected to pick a fairly youthful team, especially given his links to the U21s. Of all those youngsters, though, it’s Marcus Rashford who will gain all the attention.
The young Manchester United superstar has already scored on his England debut, but this will be his first chance to show what he can do for the national team at Wembley. Assuming he starts, we’re backing him to score early doors.
This is the type of game where England will enjoy lots of possession, and they shouldn’t have too much trouble breaking through.
Due to the sheer volume of attacks, there’s always a chance that Malta will concede a penalty. This could be especially true once the visitors start to tire. At 13/8, it’s well worth backing a spot kick to be awarded at Wembley.