6th September, 2013. 20:00 BST
England takes on Moldova in their next World Cup 2014 qualification fixture at the Wembley. Roy Hodgson’s men are still undefeated in this qualifying group, but they are far from securing their place in the World Cup to be held in Brazil next year. Having drawn three of their six matches so far, they are second in the points table, one point behind Montenegro who have played seven matches. England also has Ukraine breathing down their neck with 11 points and they need to win this fixture against a relatively easier opponent in order to put themselves in a better position.
England are coming into this game on the back of a 3-2 victory over Scotland in a friendly back in August. Rickie Lambert scored a memorable goal on his debut in the 70th minute and handed over a win to the Three Lions over their opponents. But despite that win, Roy Hodgson would have been concerned about his side’s defence, which has conceded six goals in their last four games.
England’s last fixture in this World Cup Qualification group was against table toppers Montenegro. The match was held back in March in the Podgorica Stadium and ended in a 1-1 draw. Wayne Rooney gave them a lead in that fixture with an early, but Dejan Damjanovic scored the equalizer in the second half of the match. But Wayne Rooney won’t be available in this fixture or in the upcoming fixture against Ukraine after suffering a terrible head injury in the training. It will be a big blow for England, especially in the tough fixture against Ukraine.
Other than Rooney, Roy Hodgson also faces a lot of absentees from the squad due to injuries. Phil Jones and Glen Johnson will both miss out this game after suffering from injuries in the fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United last weekend. There were also doubts about the fitness of Jack Wilshere and in form striker Daniel Sturridge, but both of them are expected to recover ahead of the game – although either of them are unlikely to start.
Four changes are expected to the starting line-up that was fielded against Scotland. Walker will once again start this game in place of the injured Johnson, while Ashley Cole will make way back in the team and replace Baines. Jack Wilshere will drop to the bench and Michael Carrick is expected to start alongside Gerrard and Cleverly. Upfront Rickie Lambert will lead the line in the absence of Sturridge and Wayne Rooney.
Roy Hodgson is also expected to change the tactics he used against Scotland in the friendly. England started with a 4-3-3 formation in that match, but are expected to change back to a more organised 4-2-3-1 formation. In the last game, without a proper holding midfielder like Carrick in the line-up, the midfield was too attack minded. But with Carrick back in the team, he is expected to partner Cleverley in the pivot with Gerrard playing a more advanced role. Cleverley and Gerrard is expected to swap roles in the match as well, which will give them a bit of fluidity.
Moldova are on the verge of being knocked out this qualification group after winning only one of their seven matches so far. Ion Caras’ side, who are ranked 123rd in the world, are coming into this fixture on the back of 1-1 draw with Andorra in a friendly last month. Despite going behind in that game, to an early goal from Oscar Sonejee, Moldova pulled their way back into the match and Aleksandru Dedov scored the equalizer just before the half-time.
In fact the storyline of the above match was similar to that of their last qualification fixture against Poland, played in the Zimbru stadium back in June. They went behind to an early goal from Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, but Eugeniu Sidorenco equalized in the 36th minute to keep their hopes of qualification alive. But it is a very think line of hope. Moldova will now have to win their remaining three games to have any chances of qualifying through to Brazil.
Unlike Roy Hodgson, Ion Caras doesn’t have any major injury concern at the moment. But yet he is expected to make a number of changes to the side which faced against Poland in their last qualifier. He is unlikely to field a 4-4-2 formation against England, like he did against Poland. His side will be deployed in a much more defensive 4-5-1 formation, keeping in mind the hammering they took at the hands of England over a year ago. Gatcan will once again be the key in the midfield and will play the holding role in front of the defence. Dedov, who started as a left winger against Poland, will play a more central role in this game, with Suvorov being pushed out wide to the left. Patras, who missed the last game, will feature on the right wing. Grosu will start upfront, ahead of Sidorenco.
England (4-2-3-1) – Hart (GK); Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Cole; Carrick, Gerrard; Walcott, Cleverley, Welbeck; Rickie Lambert
Moldova (4-5-1) – Namasco (GK); Bordian, Armas, Epureanu, Golovatenko; Patras, Dedov, Gatcan, Ionita, Suvorov; Grosu
Players to watch-out for
Rickie Lambert (England); Aleksandru Gatcan (Moldova)
England 3-0 Moldova
Blast from the past