England V Lithuanian – Wembley at 19:45 live on ITV1
England fans are flocking to the turnstiles to see Roy Hodgson’s men take on footballing minnows Lithuanian at Wembley on Friday night, but can shrewd Asian Handicap punters find a profitable angle in this almost meaningless qualifier?
The Three Lions sit comfortably at the top of Group E in Euro 2016 qualifying with 12 points from four games, which leaves them with a huge six point lead over their rivals already. Thanks to the expanded format of next year’s European Championships, England are virtual certainties to progress through qualifying without a hitch.
However, with a relatively young and inexperienced squad at his disposal Hodgson will be desperate to get the best out of players even if these remaining fixtures barely present any meaningful challenge.
Unfortunately, the manager has had to deal with numerous withdrawals from his original squad as Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Fraser Forster have all been ruled out through injury and it looks likely that Raheem Sterling could miss out too.
Despite the continual squad withdrawals and lack of competitiveness in England’s qualifying group, the team have performed admirably since the debacle in Brazil last summer. Six games and six wins have restored some confidence in the team, the FA, the media and with a lot of fans.
However, having played nobody of real note in this recent successful run of form, we should find out exactly how far this England team have come next week, when they face Italy away from home. Even though it’s just a friendly, it should give Hodgson a much more valuable measure of his players and tactics compared to what he gains from playing weak opposition in Euro 2016 qualifying.
Lithuanian are currently ranked 94th in the FIFA rankings table but after two wins and two defeats in their opening four qualifiers, they are level with Switzerland and Slovenia in second place on six points.
Qualification for Euro 2016 is obviously still a long way off but there is definitely a chance of claiming a place in the playoffs if not more. However if they are to finish in the top three, they will need to take points from one or two of the better teams not just the other minnows.
Their two victories came against San Marino and Estonia but defeats at home to Slovenia and away in Switzerland, both without scoring show that the Lithuanians are a level below average on current form and improvement is vital to their hopes.
They did manage a creditable draw in the Ukraine in their last friendly but today’s trip to Wembley, to face undefeated group leaders England will be nothing more than an exciting experience for Head Coach, Igoris Pankratjevas, his players and their fans.
Lithuanian don’t often play teams of England’s quality and as such they will probably just be aiming to keep the score down and frustrate Hodgson’s men with very negative and defensive tactics. In reality, seeing how Switzerland were able to break them down and win 4-0 against Pankratjevas’s side, England should be able to notch at least as many goals tonight.
There is good pace and creativity in the new look England squad and with inform strikers Harry Kane & captain Wayne Rooney, the country expects a comfortable victory under Wembley’s arch this evening.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: England -3 at 3.15
Price correct at the time of writing.
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