It was all smiles for England at Wembley on Friday night as they emerged from a home nation World Cup qualifier against Scotland with a 3-0 win and three points in the bag. However, anyone who watched the match will have seen the glaring holes in the English defence, and had they taken their chances Scotland could have come away with a very different result.
Even incumbent manager Gareth Southgate accepted that the result flattered his side, and the final challenge of his four-game tenure comes on Tuesday night when the Three Lions host a slick Spanish side. Players and pundits alike are calling for the former Middlesbrough and England Youth boss to get the job on a full-time basis, and the result of this match is unlikely to affect the FA’s decision. After the debacle of Sam Allardyce’s short reign, Southgate has steadied the ship and taken seven from a possible nine World Cup qualifying points. If he does end up being given the job on a permanent basis, Tuesday’s match will give him a very good idea of the level that he will need to get his team up to if he wants to be truly competitive on the international stage.
Another huge friendly on the night sees Germany travel to Italy to renew rivalries after knocking the Azzurri out of Euro 2016 on penalties in the quarter final. Both sides are in good form and it’s another top class European match-up to look forward to.
England v Spain
The Spanish were shocked by a Euro 2016 exit in the second round at the hands of Italy, but manager Lopetegui has done little wrong after suceeding Vincent del Bosque in the summer. A 2-0 friendly win in Belgium was followed by an 8-0 thumping of Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying. Next came a 1-1 away draw with group rivals Italy – a fair result in the circumstances – then 2-0 and 4-0 wins over Albania and Macedonia.
We all know how much quality runs through the Spanish side, and in Morata and Costa they appear to have solved the striker issues they’ve had in recent years. The latter is out of this match, as is key man Iniesta, but followers of the Premier League will be well aware of the dangers posed by the likes of Silva, Mata and Nolito. Spain cruised to that 4-0 win over Macedonia on Saturday – a day after England beat Scotland, so squad rotation is a strong possibility on Tuesday evening. Mata, Nolito, Azpilicueta, Aduriz and Isco are some of the names that could come into the starting line-up, but none of those significantly weaken the team.
Rotation is also probable when Southgate makes his selection, although he has few options in certain areas. Cahill and Stones are likely to retain their places in central defence, with Jagielka the only other realistic choice. It will be a different story in attacking areas although Harry Kane won’t be part of it after being released from the squad to aid his recovery from injury. Jamie Vardy may get the nod ahead of Daniel Sturridge, while the likes of Rashford Lingard, Walcott and Wilshere might also get game time.
The painful truth for England fans though, is that their team looked woeful at the back against a limited Scottish side, and really should have been punished on Friday night. Scotland missed several very presentable chances and there is absolutely no chance that Spain will be equally as generous. Both teams to score is another potential bet in this match, but enthusiasm is tempered because each of the last five meetings has finished either 1-0 or 2-0.
Spain have won three of the last four friendlies, with England sole win since a 3-0 victory in 2001, coming via Frank Lampard’s goal in a 2011 friendly. Wembley is not generally a happy hunting ground for Spain, and they have been known to take their collective foot off the gas in non-competitive games, but at the odds Spain can’t be missed. This is a well-drilled and experienced team, taking on a young English side which is arguably in a period of transition.
Italy v Germany
Both teams to score looks the obvious bet when Italy host Germany at -110 with William Hill.
The bet would have landed in each of the last five meetings between these two teams, and both are in great goal-scoring form at the moment. Italy scored a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein on Saturday, while the Germans thrashed San Marino 8-0 on Friday night.
It’s true that Germany have kept five clean sheets in a row, but the opposition has been San Marino, Norway, Finland, Czech Republic and Northern Ireland. Against top level opposition they are liable to concede, as they did in Euro 2016 games against France and Italy.
The Italians aren’t so tight at the back in recent games – having conceded to France, Israel, Spain and Macedonia – and the both teams to score bet has landed in five of their last six outings. After such a recent tournament defeat on penalties to Germany, there is also a sense of revenge about this one, and close to even odds on both teams finding the net look more than reasonable.
Spain to beat England
Tuesday 15th November, 20:00 GMT
Italy v Germany – Both Teams to Score
Tuesday 15th November, 19:45 GMT
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