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England’s Young Lions to stake World Cup claims against Finland

| 14.11.2013

Before England’s seniors take on Chile, it’s the turn of Gareth Southgate’s Under-21s as they face Finland at the Stadium MK in a televised  European Championship qualifier.

The Young Lions are level on points with Wales at the top of their group, although Southgate’s boys have played fewer games than Geraint Williams’ team.

England could only manage a 1-1 draw in Finland in September, but after two thumping wins since they are long-odds on favourites at 1/5 to triumph in Milton Keynes.

With places in the senior squad potentially up for grabs between now and the 2014 World Cup, there should be some eyecatching performers in this clash and in front of the TV cameras the Under-21s are taken to blast through the Little Eagle-Owls with something to spare.

England Under-21s to win with a two-goal handicap @ 11/8

Under new coach Southgate, England took a little while to get going in Group One, but nine goals without reply in two games against San Marino and Lithuania suggests they are on the right track.

Finland, on the other hand, have lost their only qualifier since sharing the spoils at home against the Young Lions and are struggling to assert themselves in the group.

Southgate welcomes back sought-after Derby midfielder Will Hughes and highly-rated Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, who is 12/1 to make Roy Hodgson’s initial 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup.

Danny Ings – who has scored 14 goals in all competitions for Burnley this term – is available again up-front and Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling – who is considered a dark horse to make the plane to Brazil at 6/1 – will be expected to shine in this fixture.

Saido Berahino to score the first goal @ 7/2

Burundi-born West Brom striker Berahino could yet force his way into Roy Hodgson’s thinking as England are short of in-form strikers, with Jermain Defoe keeping his place in the senior squad despite not scoring a Premier League goal since April.

The 20-year-old was recently tipped for a call-up from the man who handed him his first professional contract at The Hawthorns in the summer of 2011.

Berahino has impressed when called upon by the Baggies this season, netting six times in nine games including a hat-trick in the Capital One Cup and the opening goal against Crystal Palace in his last appearance.

He has now bagged four times in three games since scoring on his debut in Southgate’s first match in charge against Moldova and is the pick to strike first here.

Ravel Morrison to score at any time @ 5/4

How the 20-year-old former Manchester United youth slipped through the England Under-21 net under Stuart Pearce is a mystery, as Morrison is clearly a young lion with a bright future.

After tearing Spurs asunder at White Hart Lane with West Ham earlier this season, Morrison has excelled in his two games for Southgate’s team and scored twice in the 4-0 win against Lithuania.

He is the shortest priced player in the squad to make it to the 2014 World Cup at 5/1 and can justify those odds with a goal against Mika Laurikainen’s boys.