International Preview and Prediction: Spain vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Spain vs. England

Venue: Estadio José Rico Pérez – Friday, November 13 – 19:45 GMT (14:45 ET)

Match Odds: Spain 3/4 – Draw 12/5 – England  4/1

Match Preview

Spain host England at Estadio José Rico Pérez on Friday night as the two sides lock horns for the first time since 2011. The Spanish national team, as you would expect, is loaded with talent but a few key players are missing.

As with any International Friendly, this gives the head coaches a chance to rotate and experiment, but given the strength of both squads, the game has the makings of a good one.

Spain have won their last five on the bounce and are unbeaten in six. The last meeting between the sides was back in 2011 at Wembley in a game which was settled by a single Frank Lampard goal.

The two haven’t met on Spanish turf since 2009, where the hosts last came out on top as 2-0 winners, with David Villa and Fernando Llorente netting on that occasion.

Six Premier League players have made the squad for Spain, including four Chelsea players in Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez and Diego Costa, which comes as a surprise given their abysmal season with the Blues so far. Manchester United’s David de Gea could start in goal, while Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla will look to make an impact from midfield.

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England have enjoyed some of their best form to date since the World Cup in 2014. They are unbeaten in their last 15 and have scored an impressive 16 goals in their last five outings.

Roy Hodgson has opted for a squad full of young players who will see this as a chance to make a lasting impression with the European Championships just around the corner. The Tottenham midfield duo of Dele Alli and Eric Dier will be hoping for minutes on the pitch, while their teammate Harry Kane is expected to feature.

England captain Wayne Rooney has struggled for consistent form so far this season with Manchester United but is always likely to produce for the national team.

This is a good chance for Hodgson to pick up a positive result in Spain but he will be focusing on getting the best out of his players and looking for consistency to continue with Euro 2016 now just seven months away.

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Team News

Spain have recalled Diego Costa to the side. The Chelsea forward has only played nine times for his adopted nation, scoring just once. One to watch is Paco Alcacer, the Valencia forward has netted five in five this season. The usual suspects for Spain are expected to play some part in this one, with the likes a Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Isco and Koke all making the squad. Sergio Ramos and Juanfran have withdrawn due to injury.

England have had just the one withdrawal from the squad as James Milner will miss both this and the France game. Tottenham’s impressive start to the Premier League season has seen four of their inform stars make the squad. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy will be itching to make an impression as they have been in incredible form so far in their domestic seasons. Kane has six goals and Vardy has 12 so far this campaign.

Key Points

Spain’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England are unbeaten in their last 15 outings and have scored 16 goals in their last five games.

Key Player: Paco Alcacer – So long as the Spanish forward starts he will be looking to punish the England defence. His five in five for Valencia have alerted a number of European clubs and the 22-year-old certainly doesn’t lack confidence.

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Score Prediction

Spain 1-1 England – Neither side will want to lose this one and with recent form taken into consideration they are hard to split. Both sides have a two tough fixtures in this international break and domestic managers will have issued strict warnings to both Vicente del Bosque and Roy Hodgson that they don’t want any unnecessary injuries to their players. That could result in a cagey draw.

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International Preview and Prediction: England vs Estonia

Competition: European Qualifier – England vs. Estonia 

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Friday, October 9 – 19:45 BST (14:45 ET)

Match Odds: England 1/8 – Draw 13/2 – Estonia 22/1

Match Preview

England play host to Estonia on Friday night knowing they have already secured a spot at the European Championships next summer with their 100% record still intact.

Seeing as the Three Lions have already secured qualification, we are expecting more of an experimental team to take to the field for the final home qualifier.

And with Euro 2016 only eight months away, Roy Hodgson will want to make sure he continues to experiment with as many options as possible.

England’s record in Euro 2016 Qualifiers: P8 – W8 – D0 – L0

Estonia are all but out of the race for qualification as they are set for another summer at home, having never qualified for a major tournament.

Losses to Slovenia and Switzerland have let them down recently as they looked set to maybe challenge for a place.

Although they are still mathematically in with a chance to qualify, the odds are stacked against them with a trip to Wembley presenting a daunting task.

Estonia’s record in Euro 2016 Qualifiers: P8 – W3 – D1 – L4 

This will be the fourth ever meeting between these two. England have won all three of the previous games, without conceding a goal.

The reverse fixture in qualifying ended 3-0 to the Three Lions and a similarly dominant display is expected here.

Key Points

England’s last five in qualifying: W/W/W/W/W

Estonia’s last five in qualifying: D/L/W/W/L

Key Stat: England have won their last eight competitive matches since the World Cup.

Key Player: Harry Kane – Hard one to decide as no one knows what type of side Roy will play, but should Harry Kane start up top we expect him to bag a goal or two and continue his solid international form.

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Score Prediction

England 3-0 Estonia – Even with a weakened side, we still expect England to win comfortably and another solid home win shouldn’t be too difficult for the Three Lions.

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Switzerland

Competition: European Championship Qualifying – England vs. Switzerland (Group E)

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Tuesday, September 8 – 19:45 BST (14:45 ET) 

Match Odds: England – Draw – Switzerland

Match Preview

England host Switzerland in their latest European Championship qualifier on Tuesday evening in a battle between the top two sides in Group E.

The Three Lions beat minnows San Marino 6-0 on Saturday to guarantee a Euro 16 slot at next summer’s finals in France and can now guarantee a top spot finish with a victory over Switzerland.

Roy Hodgson’s men have won all seven of their qualifying games so far, conceding just three times, and have not lost a match since the World Cup.

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England have netted 12 times in their last three qualifying games at Wembley and will hope to be in free scoring form once again here against their toughest opponents in Group E.

Switzerland sit second in the group and are unlikely to finish in any other position in qualifying. That will see them make Euro 2016 though, which was the primary objective heading into the campaign.

A 2-0 home loss to England in their opening qualifying game didn’t get things off to the best start but they have won their last five on the bounce in qualifying and recorded a 3-2 win at home to Slovenia on Saturday, coming from 2-0 down to seal three vital points.

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This will be the 24th meeting between the two nations and England will be much more confident based on history as they have won 15 of the previous 23 matches, losing just three – none of which came on home soil.

Team News

England are likely to make a few changes to the team that won in San Marino, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Harry Kane all hoping to start. Theo Walcott bagged a brace from the bench and could replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting lineup. Wayne Rooney will likely spearhead the attack as he looks to score his record setting 50th goal in an England shirt.

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Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic saw two of his substitutes score all three of the team’s goals on Saturday, so Josip Drmic and Valentin Stocker will both hope to start. Xherdan Shaqiri is the star player and will be a threat, while fellow Premier League players Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler could start in midfield.

Key Points

England’s last five: W/D/D/W/W

Switzerland’s last five: W/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: England have not lost to Switzerland since May 1981 and have never lost to the Swiss on home soil.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – A goal on Tuesday night would make Wayne Rooney the highest scoring Englishmen in history. He is tied on 49 with Sir Bobby Charlton after converting a penalty in San Marino on Saturday and could get number 50 here.

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Score Prediction

England 3-1 Switzerland – Switzerland travel to Wembley knowing a win gives them a slim chance of winning Group E, but that’s unlikely to happen. The Three Lions are playing with confidence and should dispatch their Swiss opponents with relative ease here.

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: San Marino vs England

Competition: European Championship Qualifier – San Marino vs. England

Venue: Stadio Olimpico di Serrvavalle – San Marino – Saturday, September 5 – 17:00 GMT

Match Odds: San Marino 66/1 – Draw 25/1 – England 1/100

Match Preview

San Marino host England in Group E in the latest European Qualifier on Saturday afternoon, with the two sides at opposite ends of the table. San Marino are yet to win a game in the group and have just one point.

Pier-Angelo Manzaroli’s side haven’t scored in the qualifying rounds but will be looking to frustrate England and keep the score to a minimum here.

The host’s stadium will provide a hostile atmosphere with a capacity of 5115. It will be a different experience for Roy Hodgson’s side as the players are used to packed out Premier League crowds but they should face little difficulty in winning nonetheless.

San Marino lost their previous qualifying game 2-0 away at Estonia. Despite the negative result there are positives for Manzaroli to take, as his side managed to compete in the game rather than being thumped by a high scoreline.

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England have won all six of their games in Group E and sit six points clear of Switzerland in second place. Hodgson will have his players more than aware that anything but a convincing win here is not acceptable.

It is a chance for England to try out some different tactics and we can expect to see plenty of attacking play. Despite the fact that they will probably line-up with four at the back, Hodgson will expect his full-backs to provide plenty of width and service.

England’s last tie in the group was their 3-2 win over Slovenia, with Wayne Rooney scoring late on to take all three points. The England captain will see this as his chance to finally become leading scorer for the nation. He needs to net at least two to do so to overtake Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49.

Hodgson will have his players respect the opposition but this should be an easy win for England against a side ranked 193 in the world and anything but a win would be a shock.

Team News

We can expect the hosts to attempt to give England as little space as they can by playing their preferred 4-5-1 formation. San Marino will look to counter attack where possible but this will be a game where they attempt to keep the score as low as possible.

Roy Hodgson has the chance to rotate his 22 man squad in this one. The likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamie Vardy will be hoping for some game time. The England manager will no doubt be looking for his side to get the job done in a professional manner.

Key Points

San Marino’s last five in Euro Qualifiers: L/L/D/L/L

England’s last five in Euro Qualifiers: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England have won all six of their games in Group E so far, scoring 18 and conceding just three.

Key Player: Raheem Sterling – The Manchester City forward has started the Premier League campaign well and has settled into his new squad excellently following his £49 million move from Liverpool. His attacking flare will see him look to drive at San Marino from the outset.

Score Prediction

San Marino 0-5 England – A routine win for England expected, which should see then dominate proceedings as they will continue their 100% record in Group E.

STATS: Why Raheem Sterling will be City’s best playmaker next season

Raheem Sterling finally sealed his protracted Liverpool exit as Manchester City confirmed the signing of the 20-year-old England international for a club record £49 million on a five-year deal yesterday afternoon.

“I’m just glad it’s all over and done with and I can’t wait,” Sterling said after completing the move. “The more quality players around you, the more quality it brings out in you.”

The £49 million paid for his services makes Sterling the most expensive English footballer in history as well as the most expensive under-21 player in world football so there’s clearly a lot of pressure riding on his young shoulders.

Sterling will wear the No.7 shirt for City next season – a squad number usually given to those expected to create plenty of chances – and that’s exactly what the pacey winger will expect to do.

He enjoyed his best season in terms of chance creation last time out as he made a total of 68 key passes (via Squawka) for Liverpool – 22 more than in the previous campaign.

Though he did fail to find the net as frequently as the 2013/14 season as he ended last term with seven goals, two less than he bagged a year earlier.

Raheem Sterling's goal, assist and key pass output over last three seasons with Liverpool (stats via Squawka)

Chart 1: Raheem Sterling’s goal, assist and key pass output over last three seasons with Liverpool (stats via Squawka)

The graph above shows that Sterling’s performances have generally improved in the Premier League over each of the last three seasons, with those two goals dropping from 2014 to 2015 the only blip.

However, his playing time has changed significantly over the past three years and so a better way to look at his improvement would be to assess his data per 90 minutes.

Raheem Sterling's goal contribution and chances created per 90 minutes over last three seasons with Liverpool

Chart 2: Raheem Sterling’s goal contribution and chances created per 90 minutes over last three seasons with Liverpool

It’s clear that Sterling has improved as a playmaker with each season. He was creating an average of 2.2 chances per 90 minutes last term – more than any other Reds player – and will expect to go better again in a City shirt this year.

Referring back to Chart 1 shows us Sterling made 11 more key passes between the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons, before making 22 more key passes between the 2013/14 and 2014/15 campaigns.

That would suggest he is on track to make 33 more in the upcoming season, so long as his playing time doesn’t drop too significantly under Manuel Pellegrini, which would see him make around 101 key passes with about ten assists.

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No City player made more than eight assists last season (Jesus Navas and Sergio Aguero were tied on that number), while David Silva led the key pass total with 86.

If Sterling sees regular playing time, it looks likely he will reward the trust City have placed in him by creating more chances than any of his teammates.

The fact that he is playing with a world-class striker in Aguero every week will only help his cause and it will be fascinating to see how the young England star adapts in his first season at the Etihad.

Will Raheem Sterling be Manchester City’s best playmaker next season?

 

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Slovenia vs England

Competition: European Championship Qualifier – Slovenia vs. England

Venue: Stadion Stozice, Slovenia – Sunday, June 14 – 17:00 GMT

Match Odds: Slovenia 3/1 – Draw 5/2 – England 17/20

Match Preview

Slovenia welcome England to the Stadion Stozice as the top two sides in Group E go head-to-head on Sunday evening.

The hosts have won three of their five qualifying games so far and will feel they have a great chance of making it through to the knockout rounds.

Slovenia’s last outing in the qualifiers was a 6-0 thrashing of minnows San Marino. They have scored ten goals so far in the group, which is only five less than England, but they did lose in their friendly match against Qatar back in March.

A positive result here will give them a real chance of qualifying and will leave them in a good position going into their next qualifier against Switzerland, who are level on points with them at the moment.

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Srečko Katanec’s side are the only opposition to have netted against England in the qualifiers so far as the reverse fixture saw Roy Hodgson’s men win 3-1 at Wembley.

England come into this one off the back of their 0-0 friendly draw with the Republic of Ireland last weekend and will need to show more hunger and determination if they are to pick up the three points here.

The Three Lions have won all five of their qualifiers so far and will feel they have a great chance of getting through the group stages without losing.

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Hodgson’s side are unbeaten in their last ten games and they have only conceded three goals in those outings.

Team News

Slovenia will more than likely line-up in their preferred 4-1-3-2 formation. The England faithful will be familiar with Inter Milan’s Stefan Handanovic, the Slovenia number one. Veteran goalscorer, Milivoje Novakovic, will hope to spoil England’s 100% run.

England welcome back Fabian Delph after his injury, other than that, Hodgson has no other concerns to his squad. Charlie Austin will hope this will be his chance for his England debut.

Key Points

Slovenia’s last five: W/L/L/W/L

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/D

Key Stat: England have not lost a game since the World Cup last summer.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The England captain is still waiting to become the all time leading goalscorer in their history and will expect to inspire his side to victory.

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Score Prediction

Slovenia 1-2 England – A closer encounter than the reverse fixture in a hostile away tie for England.

International Preview and Prediction: Republic of Ireland vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Republic of Ireland vs. England

Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland – Sunday, June 7 – 13:00 BST

Match Odds: Ireland 11/4 – Draw 23/10 – England 1/1

Match Preview

Republic of Ireland welcome England to the Aviva Stadium on Sunday as the two meet in an international friendly in Ireland for the first time in 20 years.

The Green Army earned a draw the last time the two met back in 2013 at Wembley. They have lost just one in their last seven outings and look in good shape.

Ireland need to be high in confidence after this game and a win will no doubt help them. They face Scotland next weekend in a European Qualifier and they are hard pushed to qualify from a very tough group.

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This is the first time the sides have met in Ireland since the infamous night in 1995 where the game was abandoned just before the half-hour mark due to violence in the crowd.

England are unbeaten since their poor performance in the 2014 World Cup and have won seven of the eight they have played since last summer’s tournament. They are currently top of their European Qualifying group with five wins in five.

Roy Hodgson will be hoping for a good performance from his side in this tie before they travel to Slovenia on June 14 to continue their qualifying campaign. The England manager has given his squad a bit of a shake up and this is a great chance for him to experiment with some new faces.

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Team News

The Ireland squad is full of familiar faces as LA Galaxy‘s Robbie Keane, Shane Long, Aiden McGeady and Jonathan Walters will all expect to feature. Defender Paul McShane sat out their training session on Monday after he suffered a cut on his leg.

Roy Hodgson is expected to give debuts to Charlie Austin and Jamie Vardy after rewarding them with call ups. The two will more than likely get some playing time in friendly with Hodgson able to test out some different combinations. Fabian Delph missed training on Thursday after picking up a knock in the FA Cup final but he is expected to be fit. Adam Lallana was the only other player absent after spending some time at home following the birth of his second child. Tom Cleverley has been called up as a replacement for the injured Ryan Mason.

Key Points

Republic of Ireland’s last five: W/D/L/W/D

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/D

Key Stat: Ireland haven’t lost to England since 1985, winning one and drawing four over the past 30 years.

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Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The England captain remains just two goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record and he will be hoping he can break it within the next two games.

Score Prediction

Republic of Ireland 1-2 England – The Three Lions to have just a little too much for Martin O’Neill’s side in a game where both teams have the chance to play with freedom. It should be a tense affair but goals are to be expected in Dublin on Sunday.

PODCAST: Roy Hodgson’s England national team selection discussed

In a special edition of the MLSGB Podcast, host Zack Walford talks to Louis East, Ben Ashton, Jamie Ives and Lewis Addley about Roy Hodgson’s England national team selection for the upcoming fixtures in June.

As always, comment below if you have any thoughts on the topics discussed or get in touch on Twitter:@MLSGB_.

STATS: Five England alternatives to Jamie Vardy after shock call-up

Roy Hodgson has named his England squad for the upcoming internationals with the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia, and Leicester City‘s Jamie Vardy has caused quite a stir as he has been included for the first time in his career.

Vardy has never represented England at national level and was with League One side Fleetwood Town just three years ago.

It’s an incredible journey for the 28-year-old attacker and caps off a fine few months after helping Leicester to retain their top flight status, but was his call-up justified?

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Harry Kane’s involvement with the England Under 21’s and Daniel Sturridge’s injury means Hodgson had to look for attacking alternatives, with Vardy and QPR’s Charlie Austin both selected.

Austin’s inclusion is difficult to argue against as he has been sensational for the R’s this year, scoring 17 times in the league, but there were perhaps some better options than Jamie Vardy for Hodgson to consider.

Jamie Vardy's statistics compared to other Premier League attackers (stats via Squawka)

Jamie Vardy’s statistics compared to other Premier League attackers (stats via Squawka)

The table above looks at five fellow Premier League players that play a similar position to Vardy that Hodgson could have selected instead.

Manchester United’s Ashley Young has been in fine form of late, netting one with four assists in his last six outings, and he has created the same number of chances as Vardy in less appearances this term.

While Crystal Palace duo Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon have both been just as effective in front of goal, with Puncheon netting two more than the Leicester man.

Puncheon has contributed the same number of goals per game on average over the course of the campaign as Vardy and is perhaps unlucky not to have been called up.

While West Ham’s Stewart Downing will feel even more disappointed not to have been rewarded for his fine season.

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Downing has created more than twice the number of chances as Vardy, and has more than three times the number of key passes to his name.

The most concerning statistic as far as Vardy is concerned is that he boasts a pass completion percentage of just 64%, worse than any of the above players compared.

REACTION: Gareth Southgate selects his England U21 squad but is it good enough?

Gareth Southgate has announced his 27-man preliminary England squad for the UEFA Under 21 European Championships this summer and there were some high profile names omitted from the squad.

Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere are all absent from the squad, despite being available for selection. It will be interesting to see how many of them play for the senior team next month when they face Republic of Ireland and Slovenia, as Southgate will not have them available at this summer’s tournament.

Of the selected 27 players, they accumulate just 268 Premier League appearances this season, and average just 10 league appearances each, with 11 members of the squad playing outside the Premier League this season.

Player Parent Club Premier League appearances 2014-15
Marcus Bettinelli Fulham 0
Jonothan Bond Watford 0
Jack Butland Stoke City 3
Calum Chambers Arsenal 23
Eric Dier Tottenham 27
Luke Garbutt Everton 4
Ben Gibson Middlesborough 0
Carl Jenkinson Arsenal 31
Michael Keane Burnley 20
Liam Moore Leicester City 11
John Stones Everton 22
Matt Targett Southampton 6
Tom Carroll Tottenham 13
Nathaniel Chalobah Chelsea 0
Will Hughes Derby County 0
Jake Forster-Caskey Brighton and Hove Albion 0
Jesse Lingard Manchester United 1
Ruben Loftus-Cheek Chelsea 3
Alex Pritchard Tottenham 0
Nathan Redmond Norwich City 0
James Ward-Prowse Southampton 24
Benik Afobe Wolves 0
Patrick Bamford Chelsea 0
Saido Berahino West Brom 37
Harry Kane Tottenham 33
Danny Ings Burnley 34
Cauley Woodrow Fulham 0

In all honesty it is a weaker squad than anticipated, especially when you consider the midfielders selected have only made 41 league appearances between the nine of them, averaging under 5 appearances each. A shocking statistic for a squad that are deemed as favourites as Gareth Southgate has suggested.

When speaking about his selections, Southgate had this to say: “The group dynamic is important and we’ve taken the learnings on board and this group of players have opportunity to set the standard.

“We want to go and play in a certain style this summer and, yes, we want to win but it can’t be the sole focus. Development is key.”

But once again, should England fail to win the championship, questions will be asked about how strong the squad that was taken and should senior players have been selected?

However, Southgate has said: “We feel we should reward this group for what they’ve achieved up until now.

“We’ve worked closely with Roy (Hodgson) about what’s right thing for each player and the experience.” So if the worst was to happen and England crash out of the tournament again, like they did in Israel two years ago, Hodgson will be as much to blame as anyone.

The big debate is that if players are fit and available to be selected for the Under 21s then they probably should be.

Do you think the current England Under 21 squad is strong enough to win the European Championships, or should a stronger team have been selected?