England will look to take another step towards qualifying for Euro 2016 when they meet Lithuania at Wembley on Friday. England are unbeaten in the group and have 12 points, whilst Lithuania are level on points with Slovenia and Switzerland and they will be desperate to separate themselves and close the gap on England.
The big question is whether or not Roy Hodgson will name Tottenham’s star striker Harry Kane in his starting 11, and with Daniel Sturridge having to withdrawal it now looks likely that Kane will get the nod. The Tottenham man has 19 league goals to his name so far this season, despite not starting a game till November. This is a joint league best with Diego Costa, and his form and ability in front of goal could prove crucial in Friday and also for the future.
England have impressed on the road to France so far, and should comfortably qualify for the competition. Their have beaten Switzerland 2-0 thanks to a Welbeck brace, before confidently dispatching San Marino 5-0 back in October. Rooney scored the only goal of the game in their next match against Estonia, and another brace from Welbeck and a penalty from Rooney earned them a 3-1 victory over Slovenia in the last fixture. England have conceded just once, and Welbeck’s qualifying best 5 goals will give Hodgson something to ponder when deciding whether or not to start Kane.
It has been mixed fortune for the visiting team in qualification so far. They won their first 2 fixtures without conceding, but their last 2 matches have seen them fail to find the back of the net and they will therefore be determined to test Joe Hart at every opportunity. Despite this, Lithuania, ranked 94th, know that England are the firm favourites and they must therefore stay disciplined and compact to try and stifle the home team’s attack.
England must go into the game with a similar energy level to their previous games, and another victory will help to build confidence in the squad after such a disappointing World Cup performance. This also means that pressure mounts on Hodgson to improve England’s fortunes in Euro 2016, and he needs to find a team that gels as soon as possible.
It is Harry Kane that is dominating the sports pages and whether or not he will be selected, but Hodgson has a few other important decisions to make after losing Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Fraser Forster and Luke Shaw. Shaw’s replacement Danny Rose has also pulled out. Sterling has a slight knock but should feature, whilst Fabian Delph may miss out due to illness.
England probable starting 11: Hart; Clyne, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Henderson, Carrick, Milner, Sterling; Rooney, Kane.
Lithuania probable starting 11: Arlauskis, Vicius, Freidgeimas, Kijanskas, Zulpa, Vaitkunas, Matulevicius, Panka, Chvedukas, Cernych, Andriuskeviciu.