BEN CLEMINSON PREVIEWS ENGLAND V LITHUANIA
HARRY KANE will swap the white of Tottenham for that of England tonight after his displays this season prompted a well-earned international call-up.
He responded to Roy Hodgson’s decision in emphatic style, scoring a hat-trick against Leicester, as Spurs maintained their push for European football next term.
It was the perfect sign-off before joining his new teammates. Daniel Sturridge won’t be one of them owing to injury, unfortunately, but Danny Welbeck is also in the picture to join Wayne Rooney up front.
Welbeck has struggled to find his feet at Arsenal since his move from Manchester United. Yet he has performed well in a Three Lions shirt and is joint top scorer in Euro 2016 qualification with a five goal return.
Kane has had no such issues on the domestic front, racking up 19 league goals to be joint top league scorer. According to data from FootballFanager.com, he has performed better than Rooney after securing 161 points so far this season compared to 141. If selected together, they could form a dynamic partnership with Rooney in hot form at this level, having notched seven strikes in his past eight games.
Kane knows he has a long way to go if he’s to surpass England’s all-time scoring record, but he certainly has the potential. Bookmaker Betway are offering 66/1 that he manages the feat.
In the short term, it’s not as if England need to change much. Their qualification campaign has started perfectly with four wins from four to open a six point lead in Group E.
Tonight’s fixture is the first time they have faced the Lithuanians at senior level and it’s hard to see the visitors troubling their host’s 100% record.
There are only four teams who can also boast a flawless start - the others being Slovakia, Israel and the Czech Republic. Hodgson’s men have won their previous six games on the bounce including friendly victories over Norway and Scotland.
It’s been six years since England lost a qualifying game for either major international competition and that was away in Ukraine. During that run there have been 16 victories and seven draws.
Their competitive record on home soil is even stronger. Only Croatia have left with a win since November 2007, when a 3-2 victory brought Steve McClaren’s reign to an end.
Lithuania would love a qualification record even a fraction as impressive as their opponents. Igoris Pankratjevas’ side have claimed only two wins from their last 10 competitive away fixtures - against San Marino and Liechtenstein. Betway have priced an away win at 25/1, while the draw is 7/1.
The visitors were hammered 4-0 by Switzerland in their most recent away assignment, and they have lost their past two group games without scoring.
I don’t fancy them breaking that run at Wembley and am banking on another comfortable England win. The back four has only been breached once in four games, whilst the strikers have notched 11 goals at the other end.
Sporting Index have the match supremacy priced at 2.6 and I’d certainly be a buyer.
England are no price at 1/8, so I think the value lies in the correct score markets. Joe Hart is in superb form and England have the firepower up top to comfortably see off Lithuania 3-0 or 4-0. Those outcomes should be backed at around 5/1 and 15/2 respectively.
Wales, meanwhile, are in Israel on Saturday knowing that three points would take them to the summit of Group B, albeit having played a game more.
Their hosts have not beaten their opponents in four previous attempts, but have won all three qualification games to date. This is their first meeting since 1989, when the teams played out an entertaining 3-3 draw, but the Israelis look the complete outfit this time around and spread bettors should buy their supremacy at 0.65 with Sporting Index.
On Sunday Republic of Ireland welcome in-form Poland to Dublin for a huge fixture in the context of Group D.
The visitors have a three-point lead on the chasing pack as Germany, Scotland and Ireland all have seven points apiece. Ireland’s loss to Scotland came as a big surprise after winning their first two games before holding the world champions to a point.
Martin O’Neill has guided his side to three wins from their previous four competitive games at the Dublin Arena, but the Poles pose a serious threat.
They have beaten rivals Germany 2-0 at home and have been solid on their travels too, securing comfortable wins in Gibraltar and Georgia, scoring 11 goals without conceding.
The Irish will need to be well-organised at the back as a result. If they are, I’m confident they can do enough to earn a point. Take the 21/10 on a draw with Betway.
England to win 3-0 at 5/1 with Betway
England to win 4-0 at 15/2 with Betway
Buy England supremacy at 2.6 with Sporting Index
Buy Israel supremacy at 0.65 with Sporting Index
Ireland and Poland to draw at 21/10 with Betway