If, as a team, you have just been beaten 1-5 at home by Scotland, the chances are that you are, erm, a bit rubbish (no disrespect meant to any parties involved). That’s exactly what happened to Malta back in September, and on Saturday they travel to Wembley Stadium to take on England in front of a partisan crowd who will be wanting goals. They might just get them.
Gareth Southgate will be the man to lead the Three Lions into battle following Big Sam Allardyce’s departure, and despite what the media might say the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender is the obvious selection for next England manager following his excellent leadership of the Under 21 side. But hey, if your face doesn’t fit and all that….
This isn’t a great start for him as England boss; even if his side wins 8-0 you sense that the public’s general indifference to him won’t change, but nevertheless he has an opportunity to stamp his authority on the role with a comfortable victory against a Malta side made up of policemen, farmers and insurance salesmen.
England Team News
You could have offered Sam Allardyce the biggest bung ever put together and he still wouldn’t have picked Glen Johnson in his squad, and this is the only downside to an otherwise straightforward squad selection from Southgate.
Johnson is a defender for Stoke City – they of the second worst defensive record in the Premier League, and his selection over the promising Bournemouth right back Adam Smith is something of a quandary. The good news, and this isn’t a witch hunt by the way, just realism, is that Johnson is unlikely to get near the starting eleven with both Kyle Walker and Eric Dier in the squad.
It is unlikely that Southgate will drop Wayne Rooney, but with Malta being so limited at least he can keep the Manchester United man in his side while giving his brightest attacking talents a start in a set-up something akin to this:
This would be an interesting selection for Southgate, and would keep Rooney involved while pacifying those want to see the likes of Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford involved. You could make a case for Ross Barkley being included, but otherwise the team – based largely on club form – essentially picks itself with Adam Lallana out injured.
If you don’t know much about Maltese football then not to worry; there’s a decent resource available on Wikipedia (as we found out in writing this betting preview).
One of their best moments came back in 2000, when trailing England 1-2 they were awarded an injury time penalty (that’s after they had scored an earlier penalty that went in off Richard Wright’s face). Happily, the taker fluffed his lines and the Three Lions clung on for victory.
Other than that, there’s not much to shout about. Their last five matches have returned two draws (against Estonia and Moldova) and three defeats (1-5 to Scotland, 1-2 to Austria and 0-6 to the Czech Republic), and only two of their players ply their trade outside of Malta at club level: Andre Schembri for Boavista and Zach Muscat for Arezzo, who are based in what is essentially Serie C in Italy.
Disregarding Euro 2016, England have beaten the likes of Germany, Turkey and European champions Portugal this year, and the only thing that will stop them hammering the Maltese here is if they take their collective foot off the gas.
England vs Malta Betting Tips
England are available at 1/100 in some quarters, so clearly the outright markets are off limits. The -4 Handicap is just about value at 5/4 with Coral; the only bookmaker to have it listed as an odds-against chance.
Finding value in matches like this is a nightmare, but if we’ve put a -4 handicap in place then that informs our thinking regarding the Correct Score market: 5-0 (7/1, BetVictor) and 6-0 (15/2, SkyBet) are probably the picks of the bunch.
This is clearly a game when betting on the goalscorer markets could pay dividends; it’s just a shame that seven of England’s squad is priced at odds-on! That said, there is a touch of value in Raheem Sterling (4/6) and Dele Alli (7/10), and as more bookmakers price up it will be worth keeping an eye on price movements here.