ALEX CROOK

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

ALEX CROOK PREVIEW: England v Malta

talkSPORT’s chief football correspondent ALEX CROOK previews Friday’s international between England and Malta…


🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England v Malta 🇲🇹

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England’s final home game of a serene Euro 2024 qualifying campaign sees minnows Malta visit Wembley on Friday night.

Gareth Southgate’s men may already have secured their progression from Group C, but there is still a big incentive on Three Lions to beat Malta and win in North Macedonia on Monday to help ensure they are amongst the number one seeds in the draw for the championships in Germany next summer.

England won the reverse fixture 4-0 and, even with a few injury absentees, it would be a big shock if they didn’t clock up another resounding victory under the arch.

Malta have one ever scored once in their history against England with Richard Wright writing his name into a pub quiz question by netting an own goal back in 2000 and the team ranked 171st in the world have unsurprisingly been the whipping boys in the group.

In fact, Malta are one of only five teams not to pick up a single point so no wonder the home side are heavy odds-on favourites to clock yet another victory and maintain their 100 per cent home record in qualifying.

The only way to play the outright market is on the handicap and with fringe players keen to impress this should be a rout. England at -4 on the handicap are 5/4 with starsports.bet.

Southgate will be without Jude Bellingham, James Maddison, Callum Wilson, John Stones and Luke Shaw – all of whom will expect to be on the plane in June, and it will be interesting to see just how experimental Southgate decides to be with his system and starting line-up.

England’s squad is so deep now that they will be able to field an impressive line-up even without some of their injured big hitters. I personally hope we get to see a debut for Cole Palmer and minutes for Conor Gallagher, both of whom have really impressed me for Chelsea this season.

Harry Kane was rested for the friendly against Australia last month, but tends to start the qualifiers. If he doesn’t and in-form Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins gets the nod then I would be tempted by Watkins to score the first goal at 2/1 with starsports.bet as he did against the men from down under.

Trent Alexander-Arnold also delivered for this column in the away fixture by weighing in with a goal and this is another opportunity for Southgate to push the Liverpool defender up into midfield. Alexander-Arnold to score at any time is 12/5 with starsports.bet which I think represents better value than the majority of his teammates.

ALEX CROOK


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