A weakened England team stumbled to a 201 win over Turkey on Sunday, but there were enough question marks raised about Roy Hodgson’s squad and the team’s performance to give the Three Lions boss plenty to think about before the Euros begin in just two weeks.
None of the Manchester United or Liverpool contingent were heavily involved as those players were rested, but all are back in contention for the visit of the Socceroos at the Stadium of Light on Friday. One notable absentee is Jamie Vardy who will be getting married at the end of the week, so the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney may have the opportunity to stake their claim for a starting berth. It seems improbable that England captain Rooney might not make the first eleven, but with Harry Kane almost certain to lead the line it is a headache for Hodgson as he tries to fit his talisman into the team without upsetting the balance.
It could well be a very different team to that which faced Turkey, as Chris Smalling is likely to come into the centre of defence to partner Gary Cahill, while fringe players such as Fabian Delph, Andros Townsend and Marcus Rashford should have an opportunity to try and book their place on the plane. Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana could also be given opportunities, and as well as promising to be an entertaining game it could also answer alot of Hodgson’s questions as he looks to trim his squad from 26 to 23.
The Republic of Ireland will also be in action as they host Holland in Dublin, with Martin O’Neill’s men facing a stern test as they prepare for France.
England v Australia
Many a pundit has pointed to England’s weakness being in defence and that was more than evident on Sunday evening as the Three Lions looked especially tame at the back. Despite missing a penalty through Harry Kane, England were not full value for their win as Turkey opened them up again and again without being able to put their chances away. The return of Chris Smalling may help to shore up the English back line to a degree, but there is still a big question mark over which players will sit in front and protect the back four. Eric Dier has developed such that he appears to be first choice in the defensive midfield role, but Wilshere, Henderson, Delph, Milner and Drinkwater could all be options to play alongside him. With forward-thinking full backs such as Rose, Walker and Clyne, England need a solid base in midfield to allow those wide players to push on.
Of course the other quandary is where to play Wayne Rooney. Dele Alli looks to have nailed down the attacking midfield spot, while Rooney has never been at his best when shunted out to a wide position. It’s possible that Hodgson will elect for a diamond formation behind a front two which would allow him to field both players, but that comes with the risk of leaving Dier exposed in central midfield.
Australia meanwhile have qualified for Russia 2018 with style, and arrive in England on the back of a four-game winning run in which they’ve scored 19 goals. Those World Cup qualifiers were against Jordan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan, however, so it’s hard to read too much into the emphatic wins. The Socceroos will also be missing a few key players due to club commitments, as Tim Cahill, Trent Sainsbury and Nathan Burns among others miss out.
With both sides more than capable of scoring and conceding goals at will, the over 2.5 goal line looks well within reach and should give us another tidy profit on an England international.
Republic of Ireland v Netherlands
Republic of Ireland or Draw looks worth a nibble when they take on Holland on the same night at -143 with Bet365
The Dutch failed miserably to qualify for this year’s finals, but they have had something of a resurgence under Danny Blind recently beating Wales and England, although they went down 3-2 to France on home soil in-between. They are a talented side but one which perhaps doesn’t have the strength in depth of previous Netherlands teams, particularly at the back.
Martin O’Neill and Ireland performed admirably to come through a very tough qualifying group to take their place in France, and this will give them a great test as they build for the tournament. O’Neill is likely to play a strong side for this one, and with Ireland unbeaten on home soil in eleven internationals since May 2014, they are well worth backing on the double chance to come away with something here.
They’ve avoided defeat against the likes of Germany, England, Poland, Scotland and USA in recent home internationals, so there is no reason why Netherlands should be favourites for this one, and the Irish are more than capable of getting a draw at the very least.
England v Australia – Over 2.5 Goals
Friday 27th May, 19:45 GMT
Repulic of Ireland or Draw
Friday 27th May, 19:45 GMT