Friday, September 22, 2017

Prediction: Malta vs England

Verdict: England handicap -3

Best Odds: 5/4

Bookmaker: William Hill

Group F bottom-dwellers Malta play host to leaders England in a match that is expected to be a one-sided affair. The Three Lions are without a defeat so far in the World Cup qualifiers and are most certainly not expected to ruin their record with a match at lowly Maltese side.

Malta

Arguably one of the weakest sides in European football, Malta national team is yet to make it to the finals of any major international competition. The Group F minnows have found it too difficult to fight against the likes of Lithuania, Scotland, Slovenia and England, and are currently sitting rock bottom with six defeats from as many matches. Maltese conceded fifteen goals and scored only two during the qualifying process and are more than aware of the challenge that lies ahead at the national Stadium on Friday. Malta faced England on two occasions in the new millennium, suffering defeats in both games. The forthcoming clash is particularly important for Sam Magri, the 23-year-old defender who will be facing his past against the Three Lions. Magri came through the England youth ranks and was part of the England national team that reached the quarter-finals of the U-17 World Cup in Mexico in 2011.

Team News

Coach Pietro Ghedin will be without Balzan FC striker Alfred Effiong who is suspended for the occasion.

Steve Sultana and Lydon Micallef’s names have been crossed from the final 20-man squad.

England

The Three Lions are roaring loud in the World Cup qualifiers as they sit top of the pack with 14 points. Gareth Southgate has managed to stabilize his side and it appears as if the English are playing the best football in a while, determined not to waste any more chances of proving their quality at the international stage. Interestingly enough, Southgate’s first game as interim manager was the comfortable 2-0 win over Malta earlier in the qualifiers. Daniel Sturridge’s header opened the scoring while it was Dele Alli who scrambled in a second goal shortly before half-time. The game is remembered for the heroics of Malta shot stopper Andrew Hogg, who made a string of impressive saves to keep the score line respectable for the underdogs. Preparing for the trip to Malta ahead of the reverse game, England want to take another stride towards the qualification for next summer’s showpiece tournament. Victory on Friday and a positive result over second-placed Slovakia days later would definitely put the Three Lions in a commanding position in the final stages of the qualifying process.

Team News

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury with Joe Hart ready to step in to replace him.

Wayne Rooney has announced his retirement from international football, whereas Harry Maguire and Nathaniel Chalobah are pushing for their senior debuts.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Malta lost all of their six qualifiers thus far
  • England are topping the group F undefeated
  • Wayne Rooney announced his retirement from international football
  • Malta defender Sam Magri represented England at youth level
  • Malta conceded 15 goals in six matches, England only 2

Conclusion

The forthcoming clash at the National Stadium in Malta is a no-brainer. The Three Lions are the obvious choice for the match but you will find little value in betting on Southgate’s men to win. Malta held on pretty well in the first match in England, but we don’t think their defenses will be able to hold on for much this time out.

Verdict: England handicap -3

Best Odds: 5/4

Bookmaker: William Hill

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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