England face Malta on Thursday with interim manager Gareth Southgate in charge for the first time.
Southgate named his England squad on Sunday for the World Cup 2018 qualifying matches against Malta and Slovenia.
Wayne Rooney keeps his place in the squad despite a dip in form at club side Manchester United. Jesse Lingard could make his international debut, while Glen Johnson is back in the squad.
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Malta should not prove a problem for England and they are the perfect first opponent for Southgate to cut his teeth. Malta lost 1-5 to Scotland in their opening qualifier and a price of 2.25 is available for +5.5 goals at Wembley on Thursday.
Football betting fans can expect Malta to defend heavily in this game and try to hit England on the break. It was a tactic Slovenia and Iceland used at Euro Football 2016 to great effect. England must, therefore, get out of the traps early to soothe the nerves. They are a good bet to be winning wishing the first 15 minutes of the game.
Where the goals will come from is certainly an interesting question. Harry Kane is out with an ankle injury and that means Jamie Vardy will likely lead the line, or Daniel Sturridge. The problem is Vardy is best equipped at taking on high defensive lines and Malta will leave no space behind them for him to sprint in to. Maybe the technically more efficient Sturridge will get the nod up front, or even the exciting Marcus Rashford. Whatever the selection, Vardy may not be worth backing on a first-goalscorer bet.
Italy V Spain
This is certainly the pick of the early qualifiers during this international break. Italy are unbeaten in two games against Spain this year and stunned them 2-0 at Euro Football 2016. The Italians beat Israel 3-1 in Giampiero Ventura’s first competitive game as manager, having succeeded Antonio Conte this summer.
Graziano Pelle is on fire for Italy at the moment and even though he is now playing club football in China he remains their star striker. Back Pelle to score first if you think Italy have a chance against Spain.
The Spanish, wounded from their Euro Football 2016 exit, also have a new manager in charge. Julen Lopetegui has the task of continuing Vicente del Bosque’s legacy with Spain. They beat Lichtenstein 8-0 in their first World Cup qualifier but this is the real test of Lopetegui’s squad. Spain striker Diego Costa is back at his best at Chelsea, while David Silva ha scored four international goals already this season.
Netherlands V Belarus
Netherlands’ 1-1 draw in Sweden last month was unexpected. After Sweden’s disastrous Euro Football 2016 campaign many punters saw Holland as clear favourites to win this World Cup 2018 qualifying opener. But manager Danny Blind faced the same problems as in their last qualification campaign and they had to rely on veteran Wesley Sneijder to get them out of Solna with a point.
Their best players have moved to the Premier League over the last few years and that has impacted on the team in a bad way. Memphis Depay is nowhere to be seen, Gigi Wijnaldum suffered a disappointing performance against Sweden and Vincent Janssen has lost his form since heading to Tottenham this summer.
Holland need a pick-up and this game against Belarus could be just that — although punters may be tempted by a draw at 6.15. Belarus finished fourth in a low-standard Euro Football 2016 qualifying group and have the ability to get a goal in Rotterdam this Thursday. If this Dutch side cannot beat Belarus on individual talent alone then Blind may be sacked.
Austria V Wales
Gareth Bale will of course be the centre of attention for Wales after impressing at Euro Football 2016 this summer. Bale scored seven of Wales’ 11 goals during qualifying for the Euros, with Aaron Ramsey netting twice. Ramsey is out of this clash due to injury. Their rock at the back Ashley Williams is available however and Wales are a good shout to keep a clean sheet in Austria.
Hal Robson-Kanu enjoyed a fruitful Euro Football 2016 that earned him a contract at Premier League side West Brom. But he has since failed to score for the Baggies and will hope to put in a god display for Chris Coleman’s side here.
As for Austria, they were dreadful at Euro Football 2016, where they lost to Iceland and Hungary. However, a dogged 0-0 draw with eventual champions Portugal in Paris proved this side can go the distance in defence. They stifled Cristiano Ronaldo that day but few of us would back against Bale scoring in Vienna.