England vs Scotland: Match preview and predicted line-ups

One of football’s oldest rivalries is set to return to Wembley on Friday night as Scotland face England. Scotland have won just one of the past nine clashes over the last 30 years, with England winning the two most recent clashes in 2013 and 2014 in friendlies, but this will be the first competitive clash between the teams since the European Championships qualifying play-off in November 1999, when England’s interim manager Gareth Southgate was playing for the Three Lions.

Recent Form

Since their disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, it has only gone from bad to worse for England with the sacking of Sam Allardyce, despite his only game in charge being a narrow win over Slovakia. Gareth Southgate has steadied the ship, but a 2-0 win over Malta was less impressive than many had hoped for and a 0-0 draw with Slovenia which was uninspiring at best.

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Scotland themselves did better against the Maltese, with a 5-1 win away from home aided by two red cards for the hosts. Since then though, pressure has continued to mount on Gordon Strachan with a draw at home to Lithuania only rescued by a late James McArthur goal, and a 3-0 thrashing by Slovakia leaving them in fourth place in a six team World Cup qualifying group after three games.

Predicted Line-Ups

England predicted starting XI                    Scotland predicted starting XI

Celtic fans left short-changed by Sky Sports once again

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Harry Kane is expected to start up front for England after his goalscoring return from injury, with Wayne Rooney also likely to return to the starting line-up in the number 10 role. Eric Dier will retain his place in midfield despite failing to establish himself in the position at club level this season.

Scotland will see Scott Brown return for the fixture and he will take up a place in an experienced midfield, but their biggest threat will come from Robert Snodgrass and Matt Ritchie on the wings. Charlie Mulgrew will also be hoping to be in contention but is unlikely to start.

Key Players

England – Harry Kane

The Spurs striker returned from a month out with a vital goal in Tottenham’s draw against Arsenal at the weekend and much of England’s hopes will depend on how he performs on Saturday. England have never lost when Kane has scored and he is likely to be the focus of all of England’s attacks, with Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana likely to provide him with plenty of chances. Reportedly in the frame for the next England captain, this could be his opportunity to make his claim.

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Scotland – Scott Brown

The Celtic midfielder has controversially come out of retirement just for this derby, and Gordon Strachan is expected to put him straight into the starting line-up. Tough tackling and passionate, Brown is certain to add some bite into midfield and will likely sit deep to try to limit the impact of England’s attacking midfielders. Up against a Wayne Rooney lacking confidence, some of his hard tackles could easily ensure that Rooney has no impact on the game. The biggest challenge will be whether he can handle the pace of Sterling cutting inside.

Suspensions and Injuries

Danny Drinkwater and Fraser Forster were forced to withdraw from the England squad due to their injuries, meaning that the only injury doubt in the current squad is Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker. His teammate Harry Kane will also have to be closely monitored with only one game under his belt after a month long lay-off. Dele Alli and Chris Smalling are the most notable absences from the squad due to injuries.

Scott Brown, on his controversial return from retirement, and Darren Fletcher are Scotland’s two injury doubts as they nurse injuries picked up in club action at the weekend. They are both expected to be fit enough to play and Strachan will have a fully fit squad to choose from.

Our Prediction

Neither team is in great form at the moment, but it is hard to look beyond the quality that England have. On paper, this should be an England win, Scotland may put up a tough fight but the Three Lions should be able to produce the goods.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok.

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