England v Malta: Chance for Southgate to assess options
England face Malta at Wembley on Friday night with Euro 2024 qualification already sewn up but there are other issues that remain outstanding.
Here we take a look at the England v Malta betting odds and some of the main talking points ahead of the game.
Seeds of doubt
While a spot at next summer’s finals in Germany was assured with victory over Italy last month, Gareth Southgate’s side still have something to play for in the game against Malta and the trip to North Macedonia.
Only the top-five best performing nations throughout the qualifying campaign will be top seeds for the Euro 20204 draw in Hamburg next month.
Four points across both fixtures should be enough, while six would confirm England’s place in the first pot, so there is still something to play for on Friday. A victory should be a formality though, with the visitors 70/1 in the England v Malta betting odds to cause a huge upset.
Southgate’s own reshuffle on the cards?
While Southgate has continually stressed the need to finish Group C strongly to ensure the aforementioned top seeding, he will know England are heavy favourites going into Friday’s game.
Having initially picked a strong squad for the fixtures, he may yet decide to give some of his fringe players a chance to impress.
The likes of centre-backs Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori, for example, will be pushing to start in place of the injured John Stones, while Ollie Watkins will be keen for another chance to show he can be the man to provide the goals if captain Harry Kane is unavailable.
New kids on the block
While some squad players could feature, there is also a chance for a number of debutants to stake their claim for a late run into Southgate’s England Euro 2024 squad.
Although not included in the original list of call-ups for the forthcoming games, Southgate has added a trio of uncapped players to the squad after several injury withdrawals.
That means Aston Villa defender Ezri Konsa, Manchester City teenager Rico Lewis and Chelsea’s in-form forward Cole Palmer could all make their senior bows against the minnows of Malta, with Palmer 10/11 to get on the scoresheet.
Can Trent bridge the gap to midfield?
Having burst on to the scene at Liverpool as an attacking right-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s attributes have long-seen him touted as a potential midfielder.
After struggling for minutes with England at full-back, Southgate played Alexander-Arnold in midfield in the reverse fixture in Malta and he starred with an eye-catching performance that included a fine goal.
Alexander-Arnold has since taken on more of a hybrid role at Liverpool, too, and is now listed on England’s squad sheet as a midfielder, so he may get another chance to shine there this time around.
Tributes to a 1966 great
The fixture against Malta on Friday is the first time England will have played since the death of Sir Bobby Charlton last month.
A 1966 World Cup winner who scored 49 goals in 106 caps, Charlton has been described as the greatest England player of all time, having also won the European Cup and three league titles at Manchester United.
Wembley will remember Charlton before the game on what will be an emotional moment for all those in attendance.
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All odds and markets correct as of date of publication