GARETH Southgate heads into the Three Lions’ den tomorrow in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s sacking, and couldn’t have asked for an easier start.
At 176th in the world, Malta are the lowest ranked team in England’s World Cup qualifying group, some 59 places below next worst Lithuania.
In the overall FIFA list, they sit between Suriname and Laos.
The Maltese were routed 5-1 by Scotland (ranked 44) last time out, and England should really be looking to put a few goals past them at Wembley.
There’s unlikely to be huge upheaval in the playing personnel, as Southgate has already hinted he’ll only make minor changes.
Continuity should work in England’s favour, and I expect they’ll put four or five on the board at least.
While a buy of total goals at 4.85 might be tempting, I’m more attracted by the 229-239 that Sporting Index are predicting in the total goal minutes market.
Malta tend to tire in their matches.
They allowed three goals in the last half-hour against Scotland, and have conceded in the second half of six of their last seven competitive fixtures.
The Three Lions’ strike-force can take advantage, especially if a rampant Marcus Rashford comes off the bench.
I think we could see a shower of late home scores, and I’ll be buying total goal minutes.
Looking at the fixed-odds markets, it’s a tough fixture to find real value with the home side being so heavily favoured.
First goalscorer and bookings will be a lottery, so I’m going to go out on a limb with a half-time correct score.
It’s a strange quirk of England wins against lesser teams that they go in 2-0 up at the break.
Against the bottom two teams in their Euro 2016 qualifiers – Lithuania and San Marino – this was the case on all four occasions, with England scoring a total of 18 goals without conceding.
Malta will surely set themselves up to frustrate the home side, but I can see the pattern continuing and suggesttaking the 11/4 with Betway about England being 2-0 up at half time.
England 2-0 up at half-time 11/4 (Betway)
Buy total goal minutes 239 (Sporting Index)