Scotland go up against England on Saturday in a highly anticipated encounter in Group F of the Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Hampden Park, Glasgow plays hosts to an enticing encounter in Group F of the Qualifiers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup as England come visiting to face Scotland. Besides the rich history of the fixture, the game is of high significance to both sides, going into the crucial second half of the group stage.
While England would love to maintain or stretch the distance between them and the chasing pack atop Group F, Scotland need the victory in order to keep their hopes alive. The Scots are withering at fourth on the table. But, they could go as high as second with a victory on Saturday, provided other results also serve their purpose.
We take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Gordon Strachan would be relieved to have a fully fit squad ahead of the tie. Leigh Griffiths missed the Monday training but assistant manager Mark McGhee has since confirmed the player’s availability for the game, stating that the Celtic striker has returned to training and is fit to face England on Saturday.
Celtic wonder boy Kieran Tierney may be asked to shift again to right-back – away from his original role on the left side of the defence – all of this despite Ikechi Anya’s brilliant performance at Wembley the last time the two teams met.
Tierney, though, will likely play with a protective gum shield to guard his facial injury, which he suffered in the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen. Strachan hinted in his press conference that he is set to continue with a solitary striker upfront, despite the criticism.
Robert Snodrgass has been instrumental to Scotland’s fortunes in the Qualifying stage so far and the same is expected to continue on Saturday. The West Ham playmaker will definitely test the English side, especially with the Scot being comfortable playing against the opposition players – almost all of whom he has faced in the Premier League.
Strachan could hand Ryan Fraser his debut, either as a starter or a substitute, on Saturday. Also, in our opinion, the Scottish manager is likely to choose Tom Cairney over Stuart Armstrong to ply his trade in the number 10 role, based purely on form. Griffiths is available but we could see Chris Martin being preferred over the Celtic star.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Tierney, Martin, Mulgrew, Robertson; Fletcher, Morrison; Snodgrass, Cairney, Fraser; Martin
England’s choices are likely to be far more straight-forward than the home nation, with Gareth Southgate having a clear idea of how to set his team up for the crucial tie. Southgate, though, will not have the services of Jamie Vardy, who pulled out after a training injury.
The England manager has confirmed that Harry Kane will indeed take the captain’s armband from Wayne Rooney for the match and will lead the team out for the first time in his international career.
The only places up for grabs will likely be alongside Gary Cahill in defence and alongside Eric Dier in the midfield. Southgate has a penchant for fielding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Dier’s partner in midfield – a perfect mixture of a safe midfielder with one who likes to venture forward – and the same could be the case on Saturday.
As far as the central defence goes, Gary Cahill could be partnered by Chris Smalling or John Stones in the middle of the park, although Southgate could also go with the inexperienced but steady Ben Gibson.
Harry Kane as the striker is already confirmed and the trio behind him is likely to be Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana, with all three being a regular fixture in Southgate’s side up until now.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Walker, Cahill, Stones, Bertrand; Dier, Chamberlain; Lallana, Alli, Sterling; Kane
1. England have won their last three meetings against Scotland, scoring 3 goals on each occasion.
2. Scotland are unbeaten in their last five home games. However, England, too, are unbeaten in Scotland in their last four visits.
3. England last lost a tournament qualifier way back in October, 2009.
4. Scotland last defeated England in 1999, in a 1-0 result at Wembley.
5. England are yet to concede a single goal in the current group stage so far.
Player to Watch
Gordon was heavily linked with a switch to Chelsea as backup to Thibaut Courtois and with Asmir Begovic set to move away from Stamford Bridge, the player could yet arrive again on the radar of the Blues. A performance, especially, against the Three Lions could make up Chelsea’s mind, who are scouring for other targets.
England are likely to create several chances and it will be up to Craig Gordon to salvage Scotland’s chances of getting a result against the Three Lions, with a formidable performance on Saturday.
Scotland 0-3 England
England beat Scotland by a similar scoreline in the first half of the qualifiers and we are likely to see a repeat of the same on Satirday. England’s backline may be a bit depleted with the absence of Danny Rose or Nathaniel Clyne and a strong partner for Gary Cahill in the middle of the defence.
Harry Kane will lead the frontline and the team on Saturday and the Tottenham superstar is likely to get himself on the scoresheet, with Dele Alli another likely candidate. It may well end up being another Harry Kane show.