This weekend, Gareth Southgate’s sides take on Gordan Strachan’s side in a crucial World Cup qualifier. Last time the sides met was back in November when England comfortably won 3-0.
Scotland will be looking for much-needed revenge, especially as they haven’t beaten England since November 1999 when then beat England 1-0 thanks to Don Hutchinson’s goal. But on that occasion, a one-goal win wasn’t enough as that result saw England through to Euro 2000 having won the first leg 2-0.
Anyway, enough about the past. England currently sit four points clear at the top of the group whilst Scotland are six points adrift of automatic qualification. It’s a must-win fixture for both sides if they’re to continue their quest to qualify for Russia 2018. This is a game where Scotland cannot afford to drop points, (England can, but why would they?) as if they do, that’ll put them in grave danger of missing out on yet another major tournament.
Should Scotland win this fixture and Slovakia plus Slovenia do not pick up points, that’ll see them move to second and within three points of leaders, England.
Ahead of the game, Blackburn Rovers defender Charlie Mulgrew says that his side will be “underdogs” though, I’m going to dismiss that claim as I believe that in fixtures such as these, there are no underdogs. He also went on to say that although the game will be difficult, it’s one that he’ll be very much involved in. Clashes such as these always get me pumped up as its one of those fixtures where even though there’s a clear underdog, it sometimes feels as though both sides are big.
Thoughts ahead of the game
It’s excellent news that everyone has reported for duty, but that’ll give Southgate selection headaches, which is also good as it shows that everyone wants to be part of the squad. The likes of Aaron Cresswell and Ryan Bertrand will be contesting for a spot at left-back, whilst Harry Kane is set to lead the line as well as captain the side.
To reiterate what I said earlier, the term “underdog” does not exist in this fixture as both sides will be going toe to toe with each other, and I expect Scotland to ramp up the pressure on England during the tie. I predict it’ll be a tight game, but I won’t give anything else away.
I would start the following: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Dier, Lallana, Alli, Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kane, Sturridge.
With Harry Kane being chosen as captain, I would expect the best from him. I chose Hart as his experience in big games on the international stage is vital. Tom Heaton and Jack Butland (whom the latter was with Team GB five years ago) also have experience on the international stage, but not as much as Hart does. As ever, I don’t put down which side I think will win for fear of “jinxing” the event. So for that reason, I’ll leave that to you to decide.