In their final home game of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, England is set to host minnows Malta at Wembley Stadium in an eagerly anticipated Group C battle on Friday.
While the Three Lions have already secured the top spot in the section, they are determined to achieve maximum points this month in order to enter Pot 1 for the group-stage draw.
Following their revenge mission over Italy at the scene of their Euro 2020 heartbreak, England sealed their place in Germany with an emphatic victory over the reigning continental champions.
Although Italy may not be the same force they once were, England’s comprehensive win showcased their strength.
Despite a brief defensive lapse that allowed Gianluca Scamacca to score for Italy, Harry Kane’s brace and a goal from Marcus Rashford completed a stellar comeback for Gareth Southgate’s side. Prior to this victory, England had a lackluster performance in a 1-0 friendly win against Australia.
With 16 points from six games, England currently leads Group C. While both Italy and Ukraine have the potential to draw level with the Euro 2020 runners-up, England holds the advantage in the head-to-head column.
However, securing first place is not the only mission for England. They are one of seven teams vying for three spots in Pot 1 of the group-stage draw, alongside hosts Germany and Portugal.
England has a game in hand on Belgium, Austria, and Turkey, and a resounding 14th consecutive home win in Euro qualifiers is expected by the Wembley faithful.
On the other hand, Malta finds themselves in a completely different situation. As the 171st-ranked nation in the world, they have had a continental nightmare in Group C.
Currently, Malta is one of five teams without a single point, alongside San Marino, Cyprus, Gibraltar, and Liechtenstein.
They are at risk of losing every one of their Euros qualifying matches for only the second time in 51 years.
Their match against Ukraine showed promise as they took an early lead through Paul Mbong, but ultimately suffered a 3-1 defeat.
With the guarantee of finishing last in the group, Malta’s aim in their final contest against England is to salvage a sliver of pride.
However, their losing streak in Euros qualifiers could extend to 17 matches in the English capital.
In their previous encounter in June, England comfortably defeated Malta 4-0, making it six wins out of six against their opponents.
England will be without several key players due to injuries and personal reasons. Jude Bellingham, Lewis Dunk, James Maddison, Callum Wilson, and Levi Colwill have all withdrawn from the squad.
Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips are yet to join the team for personal reasons.
Additionally, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell, and Reece James will be absent from the defense, giving opportunities to Rico Lewis, Ezri Konsa, and Cole Palmer.
Malta, on the other hand, welcomes back Kemar Reid, who is set to earn his first cap after gaining citizenship. Teddy Teuma and Jodi Jones have also returned from injury and will strengthen the offensive ranks of the team.
Possible starting lineups:
Walker, Guehi, Maguire, Trippier;
Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Gallagher;
Bowen, Kane, Foden
S. Borg, J. Borg, Pepe;
Attard, N. Muscat, Guillaumier, Camenzuli;
Jones, P. Mbong
Regardless of whether Gareth Southgate opts for a full-strength lineup or makes changes, England is expected to dominate the match against Malta.
With their eyes set on securing Pot 1 ambitions, a comprehensive thrashing of Malta is likely. Although Maltese fans may hold some optimism with the return of Teuma and Jones, England’s defense should prove too strong for them.
- Our Prediction: England 5-0 Malta