England take on Andorra in a FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier as Gareth Southgate looks to stretch his team’s lead at the top of Group I.
Andorra’s dream to make the cut for a World Cup Finals has gone in vain again as the European minnows find themselves near the bottom of Group I. Their fifth-placed standing has been due to their 2-0 victory over fellow whipping boys in San Marino when both teams clashed during the last month’s international break.
They face a tough challenge at home when England visit for the latest round of World Cup qualifying fixture in the group, very well expecting another defeat. They will hope to bring their pride into the equation and possibly prevent the Three Lions from scoring freely. Mathematically, they can still finish in second place if they win all their remaining games and the results of their opponents go their way, but it seems well out of their reach.
England, meanwhile, sit comfortably on top of the group, with a four-point gap between them and second-placed Albania. There sure exists a chance for the Albanians to overtake them at some point, but the Three Lions can consolidate their standing with a good victory over minnows Andorra.
The Three Lions could have a bigger lead than they currently hold, if not for Poland’s Damian Szymanski, who got a timely equaliser right at the death in their last qualifying fixture that ended 1-1 last month. England could afford to have dropped two points against the Polish, but letting out more might become a problem come the end of qualification.
While the English are very much expected to take all three points against Andorra, Gareth Southgate will want his side to be confident in their pursuit of it. The manager would certainly want this visit to be eventful, as an unlikely draw or a shock defeat might do more damage than just dropped points.
Team News & Tactics
Koldo Alvarez will be aware of his side’s disciplinary record in this qualifying campaign, as he is set to miss three of his stars due to suspensions. Albert Alavedra, Marcio Vieira and Moises San Nicolas are all suspended due to accumulating yellow cards.
However, Alvarez is boosted by a set of returnees who come into the side after serving suspensions, which leaves the manager baffling at his side’s disciplinary record. Christian Garcia, Marc Rebes, Chus Rubio, and Marc Veles are all coming back, but it remains to be seen if they make the starting lineup.
However, Vales was the payer who scored both the goals in their rare win in the group against San Marino, so he is expected to start the game.
41-year-old defender Ildefons Lima still makes himself available for selection and remains a defensive option off the bench if needed. Alvarez will try to field his strongest possible lineup to see how far his can go against England.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Gomes; Rubio, Veles, Llovera, M.Garcia; Martinez, Pujol, Rebes, Moreno, Cervos; Cucu
Reece James’ withdrawal from the squad probably changes nothing for Southgate in terms of his selection, as England have a wealth of options at right full-back. However, the Chelsea star’s withdrawal alongside midfielder Kalvin Phillips has opened the door for Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and James Ward-Prowse.
More 📸 from today's session in Andorra 👊 pic.twitter.com/Wg14ENTmTR
— England (@England) October 8, 2021
As England are playing just the two games during this round of international break, Southgate will take the opportunity to change style and rotate his preferred lineup. Meanwhile, the absence of Phillips would let the manager opt for a midfield three with Jordan Henderson at the base.
Phil Foden and Mason Mount could line up beside the Liverpool captain in a very attacking midfield. There were also concerns regarding the Andorra pitch, which might prompt Southgate to rest the misfiring Harry Kane, with Ollie Watkins and Abraham providing more than enough options to replace him.
Manchester City duo Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish could start alongside the No.9, probably Watkins. John Stones, who is finding game-time difficult to come by again under Pep Guardiola, might be preferred in central defence, alongside Tyrone Mings.
In Luke Shaw’s position, Chilwell’s coming into the squad might earn him a starting place on the left side, while Kieran Trippier could take up the right side. Sam Johnstone might be preferred in place of Jordan Pickford to give him a taste of an international match.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Johnstone; Trippier, Stones, Mings, Chilwell; Mount, Henderson, Foden; Sterling, Watkins, Grealish
- Andorra have lost 35 of their last 38 FIFA World Cup qualifying games.
- Andorra have been losing both during half and full time in six of their last seven WC qualifying games.
- England have kept a clean sheet in their last five games against Andorra in all competitions.
- England have won their last five games against Andorra in all competitions.
- England are unbeaten in their last six World Cup qualifying games.
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After a superb Euros, Sterling was expected to shine for both club and country in the current season, but things have gone rather differently for the forward, at least at club level. This season, Guardiola has refrained from selecting Sterling for important games and preferred new signing Grealish instead.
Against Andorra, Sterling is more or less guaranteed a spot in the side, and he needs to prove it to Guardiola more than Southgate, that he and Grealish can play well in the same team. More importantly, the forward will have to cement a place in the side, which should not be disturbed even if he has a bad season domestically.
Andorra 0-3 England
It’s an understatement to predict just three goals in England’s favour considering the attacking lineup they might field against Andorra. Their record in the last five games against the European minnows has been impeccable, and it might continue to look that way after full-time in this clash.
England might end up getting more goals than the predicted number, and with a defence consisting of Mings and Stones, they are unlikely to concede any here. There have been suggestions of a bad pitch here in Andorra, but the Euro finalists will surely get through this unscathed and carry all three points back home.