Malta vs England Betting Preview: Easy win on the road for Southgate’s men
England to win with a -4 handicap @ 7/2 with Betfair
England to win 3-0 @ 4/1 with Betfair
England to win by four or more goals @ 6/4 with Paddy Power
It has always been the same for England, ease through qualification for a tournament and falter when the pressure is on as the action starts. Ahead of the World Cup in Russia next summer, it is no different with the Three Lions leading Group F by two points after six games, winning four and drawing only two. Gareth Southgate has impressed since replacing Sam Allardyce in acrimonious circumstances, making bold decisions when selecting squads and attempting to improve the players’ mindset and winning mentality.
With just four games remaining in the group, England are all but certain to reach Russia, but the quality of opponents is not high and that is exactly why, more often than not, the team breezes through the process. Malta, for example, are the whipping boys, losing all six of their matches, conceding 15 goals and scoring just two. The win should be a guarantee, but then there will be more pressure on the performance, with little value in backing England at a low score.
Southgate will want a big performance after the disappointing draw at Scotland in June, which saw his side take the lead, go behind and rescue a point through Harry Kane, and this is the perfect opportunity. Kane has never scored in August for Tottenham, in 13 games, so he will be very happy to see the turn of the month. Southgate also selected Jermain Defoe, yet to score for new club Bournemouth, and Marcus Rashford, who came off the bench to score for Manchester United at the weekend.
But the key to this game will be unlocking the defence, because Malta, like all the other minnows, will look to sit back and frustrate England for as long as they can. Having players who can pick a pass will not be as important if there is no space to find in behind, so the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the dribblers, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dele Alli in particular. An early goal is always vital in these games, and scoring in the first ten or fifteen minutes will make it easier to put Malta to the sword overall. All of our tips are backing a big win, because that is all that will be acceptable to viewers and critics, but more importantly goal difference could be vital with Slovakia, who have won their last four, just two points behind in the table. Both sides are level on plus eight goal difference.
Key battle: Raheem Sterling vs Zach Muscat
It is very tough to pick a key battle in a game such as this because there is no guarantees of who will play. But pace and willing, direct runners will win this game for England. Sterling has the ability to dribble and pull Muscat, the Maltese fullback, out of position. Are Malta going to cause many problems going the other way? It is highly unlikely they will get out of their own half, they will pack the midfield and try to shut down the space in front of England’s players. Sterling is in good goalscoring form for Manchester City, netting two in two, and he is a confident, athletic and energetic player, perfect to be given licence to break down the wall the hosts will in all likelihood put up.