England were beaten by a trademark Lucas Podolski thunderbolt in Dortmund during the week, in a fitting end to the striker’s career as Germany secured a 1-0 home win. What was notable about the match much more than the result, was the manner of both sides’ performance.
England were as impressive as the Germans were uncharacteristic, and Gareth Southgate’s bold decision to set out with a new formation paid off as English players took the game to the World Champions. It’s difficult to gauge quite how average Germany’s performance was, and how it contributed to England’s positive display. The Germans rarely get out of second gear in friendly matches, but England’s opponents this week are unlikely to be any better than an under-par Germany. Lithuania were beaten 3-0 by the Czech Republic in a midweek friendly, and despite relatively positive results in World Cup qualifiers so far, they should be outclassed at Wembley.
Scotland suffered another disappointing result in a midweek friendly drawing 1-1 with a Canada side that they were expected to beat. Second-bottom of England’s group, the Scots face a crucial home match against second-placed Slovenia on Sunday evening. Gordon Strachan’s side have been priced up by most bookmakers as favourites for the group F clash, but that seems a false position in terms of recent results. Slovenia are fair value to come away with at least a point as they tighten their grip on the runners up position in the section.
Finally, Germany are fancied to continue the winning run with a routine victory in Azerbaijan, where they can be backed to win and extend their sequence of seven games without conceding a goal.
England v Lithuania
We’re going to take a chance on a big England win here, and the Three Lions can be supported at +112 with 188Bet to cover a -2.5 goal handicap.
John Stones is almost certain to replace Gary Cahill, who serves a suspension, but there is every chance that Southgate will stick with the back three after an impressive debut from Burnley’s Michael Keane. Raheem Sterling is another player who could come back into the side after sitting out the Germany game, possibly in place of West Brom’s Jake Livermore if the England manager elects to play with just one holding midfielder in Eric Dier.
The Three Lions are top of group H and are yet to concede in qualifying. Their only draw was the 0-0 in Slovenia, in Southgate’s second game in charge, but that doesn’t read too badly considering the Slovenians are in 2nd in the group. England have twice played at home during this campaign, beating Malta 2-0 and Scotland 3-0 in comfortable Wembley wins. It’s also worth noting that they beat Lithuania 4-0 on their most recent visit to the capital in March 2015.
Draws with Slovenia and Scotland marked a successful start to this World Cup qualification group for Lithuania, and they followed up with a 2-0 home success over minnows Malta. The last two games have brought them crashing back down to earth though, after a 4-0 away defeat in Slovakia and that 3-0 friendly loss in Czech Republic last week.
Scotland v Slovenia
Scotland are arguably false favourites for this match, and a better bet could be Slovenia to win or draw in the double chance markets. Best odds of -159 are available with 188Bet.
Slovenia are yet to be beaten in four qualifying games, and have kept clean sheets in the last three. They had to fight back from 2-0 down away in Lithuania to secure a draw, but 1-0 wins over Slovakia and Malta have sandwiched an impressive 0-0 at home to England. They now sit in 2nd place in the group with eight points, two clear of next-best Slovakia, and four points ahead of the Scots.
Gordon Strachan’s men have failed to perform since winning 5-1 in Malta in their opening group match, but even then they suffered the indignity of being all square at the break. Those four second half goals may have papered over the cracks, which have become apparent in subsequent games. Despite dominating at home against Lithuania they found themselves a goal down with just minutes remaining, before McArthur’s goal rescued a point. Scotland went on to suffer resounding 3-0 defeats away in Slovakia and England, and those results have given them a huge task if they are to get competitive in the race for qualification. Although several Celtic players were left out of the starting line up against Canada in midweek, more was still expected from the team that took the field. A 1-1 draw against a side ranked 117th in the world is not the sort of form that will give Slovenia nightmares.
Indeed, the Slovenians will travel to Scotland in the belief that they are worthy of getting something from the game as they push for the qualification from group H. As stated, they’ve kept three qualifying clean sheets in a row, and are unbeaten in four away internationals – including games in Sweden and Poland.
Azerbaijan v Germany
Finally, take Germany to record their 8th consecutive clean sheet in a victory over Azerbaijan at -182 with BoyleSports.
The Germans haven’t conceded a goal in seven internationals since their Euro 2016 exit at the hands of France. They’ve scored sixteen without reply in four qualifying games, and will surely win this at a canter.
Azerbaijan started their campaign with excellent 1-0 wins over San Marino and Norway, but have failed to score in a 0-0 draw with Czech Republic and a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Northern Ireland since then.
England -2.5 to beat Lithuania
Sunday 26th March, 17:00 GMT
Slovenia or Draw
Sunday 26th March, 19:45 GMT
Germany to beat Azerbaijan to Nil
Sunday 26th March, 17:00 GMT