England will be hoping to take another step towards qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2022 when they take on minnows Andorra in a Group I contest this weekend.
England will be aiming to extend their 100% record in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifying campaign when they play hosts to Andorra in their fifth Group I contest at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Three Lions shrugged off the disappointment of faltering at the final hurdle of the UEFA Euro 2020 and produced a fine display in a hostile atmosphere to beat Hungary 4-0 earlier this week. The result meant that Gareth Southgate’s men stretched their lead at the top of Group I to five points over Poland in the second place. Another win would further help their chances to secure early qualification to the World Cup in Qatar next year.
As for Andorra, they come into Sunday’s game having picked up their first win in the Qualifiers, as they beat San Marino 2-0 earlier this week. The result sees them move into the fifth spot in the group, four below Poland in second. However, despite having not lost in their last two clashes, Koldo Alvarez & co. are likely to find it extremely tough to cause any sort of upset on their visit to London this weekend.
The last time these two teams clashed was in a World Cup qualifying game more than ten years ago in 2009, with England thrashing Andorra 6-0 at home. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday at Wembley, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sets of squads.
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Heading into the game, England have been dealt with a fresh setback as Manchester United star Jadon Sancho has had to withdraw from the squad due to an injury. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is another player that will be unavailable for selection, after having pulled out of the roster earlier in the week.
With the likes of Declan Rice, Kyle Walker running the risk of suspension for the big game against Poland next week if they get booked, Gareth Southgate might decide to protect them. Wholesale changes could be on the cards elsewhere too. Jordan Pickford, however, should hold on to his place between the sticks for the hosts.
The rest of the team should line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Reece James likely to come in at right-back for Walker while Kieran Trippier gets a run-out on the left. Conor Coady and Harry Maguire ought to form the centre-back partnership, with John Stones getting a breather.
With Rice likely to be protected, Jordan Henderson should be in line for a start in midfield. The veteran midfielder ought to have the talented Jude Bellingham as his partner, with the Borussia Dortmund acting as the ball-carrier from the centre. Jesse Lingard, meanwhile, ought to start as the No. 10, from where he will look to provide constant attacking support.
With Sancho ruled out Jack Grealish should be in line for another start while there could be a change on the right with Bukayo Saka coming in for Raheem Sterling who was brilliant in the last game. Up top, Patrick Bamford should make his debut for the England national team, coming in as the striker in place of Harry Kane.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pickford; James, Coady, Maguire, Trippier; Henderson, Bellingham; Saka, Lingard, Grealish; Bamford
Andorra, meanwhile, will have to make do without the services of Mark Pujol and Jordi Alaez, both of whom are suspended after picking up bookings in the win against San Marino. Manager Koldo Alvarez could set his team up in a damage-limitation mode on Sunday to try and stop England from having a field day in the final third.
This should see the Tricolours switch to a five-man backline from the four-man unit they utilised in the win against San Marino. This could potentially see Moises San Nicolas line up in as a centre-half after starting at right-back last time out. He ought to have Max Llovera and Albert Alavedra as his centre-back partners, with Jesus Rubio and Joan Cervos lining up as the full-backs.
Marc Vales, who scored twice in the last game, will be in charge of breaking up play in the middle of the park. And with Pujol ruled out, Xavier Vieira could come into the side in the middle of the park. The duo is expected to sit deep and protect the backline while trying to release the wide players quickly to hit the hosts on the break when on the ball.
The said wide players Alex Martinez and Sergio Moreno, who will be tasked with carving out opportunities for the centre-forward, who ought to be Cucu.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Gomes; Rubio, San Nicolas, Llovera, Alavedra, Cervos; Martinez, Vieira, Vales, Moreno; Cucu
- England and Andorra have met each other four times so far, with the Three Lions winning each of those encounters, not conceding a single goal, while netting 16 goals.
- After losing eight games in a row, Andorra have not faced defeat in their previous two matches. Their win against San Marino was their first in 18 encounters.
- England have lost just one of their last 14 matches, with that defeat coming in the finals of the UEFA Euro 2020.
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Given the nature of the opposition, Gareth Southgate is expected to rotate his squad for Sunday’s game. And, that could end up working in favour of Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford, as he gears up to make his debut for England. The ex-Chelsea ace was unlucky to miss out on the squad for the Euros after enjoying a fine 2020/21 season in the Premier League.
With his chance finally set to come, Bamford will be hoping to make the most of it and ensure that he goes on to establish a foothold in the national team squad.
England 3-0 Andorra
Anything other than a win for England would be a shock result on Sunday. Despite Gareth Southgate being expected to rotate his squad heavily, the gulf of quality between the two teams is too vast. And with several players in the Three Lions’ squad itching to get on the field and force their into Southgate’s plans on a more regular basis, a commanding performance could be on the cards. The Hard Tackle expects a 3-0 win for the hosts.