MLSGB’s predicted England lineup vs Malta

Take a look at MLSGB‘s predicted England lineup vs Malta for their World Cup Qualifier on Friday evening. Gareth Southgate will set up to attack so 3-5-2 is the most likely formation. Although England should win comfortably they are still going to have to get goals early to ensure it is not a dragged out affair.

England lineup vs Malta: Defence

We expect Joe Hart to start in goal. Jordan Pickford’s withdrawal from the squad means the West Ham man is the front-runner to take the number one shirt. Burnley’s Tom Heaton will feel hard done by, but Hart’s experience makes his inclusion more likely.

John Stones, Gary Cahill and Michael Keane have all made strong starts to the Premier League season. The three of them are comfortable on the ball so they are capable of helping to break Malta down.

Kyle Walker and Ryan Bertrand are the obvious choices for wing-backs. The pair have great attacking ability and love to get forward. Even if they are caught out of position there is enough cover with the three behind them.

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England lineup vs Malta: Midfield

Southgate has a difficult choice for the two midfielders in the holding role given how many options he has. However we feel it will be Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson who make the cut. Dele Alli will sit in front of the two, providing the necessary flare and qualities to unlock the Malta backline.

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England lineup vs Malta: Attack

The attacking pairing is Southgate’s most difficult selection for us. Harry Kane start despite the fact he failed to find the back of the net in August. Kane’s partner for this one could be any of the other attacking options in the squad. Jamie Vardy will be hoping for some minutes but we think Marcus Rashford’s impressive start to the season will earn him a place in the starting XI.

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What would your England lineup be for the game against Malta?

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International Friendly Preview and Prediction: Germany vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Germany vs England

Venue: Olympiastadion, Germany – Saturday, March 26 – 19:45 GMT (15:45 ET)

Match Odds: Germany 8/13 – Draw 29/10 – England 17/4

Match Preview

Three-time European Championship winners and current World champions Germany welcome England to the Olympiastadion on Saturday evening in a friendly tie that should be full of action.

The footballing machine that is Germany are arguably the best national team in the world at the moment and have a squad brimming with confidence.

They do however come into this friendly off the back of a 2-0 loss to France last time out in a game that will live long in the memory of players and fans alike for heartbreaking and disastrous reasons off the field.

This should be a good test for Germany ahead of the Euro’s and a tie for all to enjoy. They face Italy next so it’s going to be a tough international break for Joachim Löw’s side. Germany have won three of the last four meetings between these sides and will expect home advantage to help them through.

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England have a lot to be optimistic about heading into this tie in what is a new era for Roy Hodgson’s side. There are a lot of young and upcoming top talents in the squad and two exciting goal-machines upfront in the form of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy – the Premier League’s top two goalscorers.

Hodgson will be able to test out some different variations in this tie and it will again provide a test for the squad he has chosen. This will be also be a tough international break for England, as they face the Netherlands three days after this outing, so rotation is expected throughout.

England also played France in their last outing but they had a more favourable result, winning 2-0 at Wembley.

Hodgson’s side are held in high regard by Löw, who expects them to challenge to win Euro 2016 in France this summer, so this is a great chance to prove to any doubters England are more than capable of causing problems for the very best.

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Team News

The German squad is as strong as ever, with some of the highest regarded players once again earning a call up. The fierce attacking options at Löw’s disposal are frightening, with the likes of Thomas Muller, Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil and Karim Bellarabi expecting to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira are expecting to fill the holding role, with Mats Hummels and Shkodran Mustafi in line to feature as the centre-back paring. Familiar faces included in the squad such as Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Mario Gomez and Emre Can will all be pushing to feature. Bastain Schweinsteiger has been ruled out through injury.

England are without regular goalkeeper Joe Hart, so Jack Butland is expected to start. The Tottenham Hotspur contingency in the squad, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane will hope their fine Premier League performances this season will be enough to gain some minutes in this tie. Hodgson has a solid squad heading into the clash with the likes of Jamie Vardy, James Milner, Chris Smalling and Jordan Henderson all having consistent domestic seasons. Danny Drinkwater will be itching to make his senior England debut and what a game it could be for him to feature in. Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling are both out through injury.

Key Points

Germany’s last five: W/W/L/W/L

England’s last five: W/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: England have only lost once in their last 17 games.

Key Player: Manuel Neuer – The German ‘keeper, widely regarded as the best in the world and equally as good with the ball at his feet, will prove as always so difficult to get the better of.

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Score Prediction

Germany 2-1 England – The German national side will prove to have just a little too much for England to deal with on Saturday. This game should provide both sides with a taster of what is to come from the Euro’s this summer and give both head coaches ideas of areas they will need to improve upon with just over two months to go.

Gerard Pique labels young English star as one of world’s best

FC Barcelona and Spain centre-back Gerard Pique has named England and Everton star John Stones in his world XI and told The Daily Telegraph he is ‘one of the new generation.’

Pique is regarded as one of the best central defenders in the world and he admits you can’t just be a ‘defender’ anymore in the modern game.

“Now the position of the centre-back is not just about defending or being nasty or tough. It’s about knowing how to play football, control the ball, pass and be more comfortable in possession,” he said.

Stones has received credit for his composure and confidence from players past and present and pundits alike in his rise to the top level over a short period of time.

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The praise didn’t stop there from Pique, as he added: “He’s one of the new generation who understand football not just as a defender.”

The 21-year-old Toffees star could well be in England’s starting lineup against Spain on Friday, which should see him face Pique.

Pique’s comments will only further fuel speculation that Stones will be subject to more bids from Europe’s elite clubs in the upcoming transfer windows.

Stones was one of only two players who Pique has not played alongside in his chosen XI.

Pique World XI

created using lineupbuilder.com

Will Stones get a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs?

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.

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: 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.

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_.

Should these two MLS strikers have joined United & Arsenal stars in England team?

England manager Roy Hodgson has just announced the squad for the upcoming international matches against Ireland in a friendly and Slovenia in the European Championship qualifier, but once again, no players from outside English football have been selected.

Charlie Austin of QPR and Jamie Vardy of Leicester City have both been included in the squad for the first time and complete the list of strikers alongside Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney, as well as Arsenal‘s Danny Welbeck.

But should Hodgson have looked further afield than just the Premier League? It’s unlikely that Rooney or Welbeck were going to be dropped, so how do Austin and Vardy’s performances this season compare to two Englishmen in MLS over the course of 2014 and 2015?

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New York Red BullsBradley Wright-Phillips and Sporting Kansas City‘s Dom Dwyer are two of the most prolific striker’s in MLS, so here is a breakdown of their numbers weighed up against Austin and Vardy’s:

Austin and Vardy vs BWP and Dwyer

Austin, Vardy, Wright-Phillips and Dwyer’s stats in 2014/15 (Stats via Squawka)

The stats show that Bradley Wright-Phillips has contributed to an incredible 0.85 goals-per-game, which is more than double the amount that Jamie Vardy has for Leicester.

Dom Dwyer also contributes to more goals-per-game than Vardy but isn’t quite as productive as Charlie Austin has been for QPR.

Many will point to the fact that MLS is arguably a weaker league than the Premier League but it’s worth noting that the quality of play in MLS has risen considerably in the last few years, therefore making Wright-Phillips’ and Dwyer’s achievements extremely impressive.

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The last time a player outside of the English football league system featured on international duty was when David Beckham played in a 3-0 win against Belarus in October 2009 while he was playing for LA Galaxy – also an MLS side.

Could the next player from outside English football to feature at international level also be from Major League Soccer?

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.