Malta vs England
Date: 1st September 2017
Kickoff: 19:45 UK/ 20:45 CET
Venue: Ta’ Qali National Stadium
England travel to Malta on Friday night for the first World Cup qualifiers of the 2017/18 season.
England are currently top of Group F with 14 points and a win against Malta will keep them there. A win for Malta, on the other hand, would keep them bottom of the table.
Malta go into this game ranked 190th in the FIFA World Rankings. They also go into this game without picking up a single point in Group F in six games.
In the group so far they have scored just two goals and conceded a huge 15. In their last World Cup qualifier, they lost 2-0 to 3rd place Slovenia. However, in their last friendly, they managed to beat Ukraine 1-0. Ukraine are a decent side that are only two points off top spot in their qualifying group. So, Malta will be certainly hoping to take inspiration from that game and try and at least nick a point from group Leader’s England.
Injury news: Malta have no injuries going into the game. But Alfred Effiong will be serving a one match ban so he will miss the game.
Gareth Southgate will take charge of his 5th match as the permanent England manager when England take on Malta.
So far, Southgate has not had the best of starts. In his four games in charge, he has lost two, drew one and one just one. That win coming against Lithuania. In their last match, a friendly vs France, Southgate opted to try and copy nearly every manager out there now and play three at the back. This failed miserably and lead to players like Mbappe and Dembele torturing England’s defence. This eventually resulted in England losing 3-2.
In the match before England drew 2-2 with Scotland after having the lead until the 87th minute. This shows England are having some major defensive issues which Southgate must address sooner rather than later.
Due to Malta being such a bad side England are very likely to win regardless of the formation/personal Southgate puts at the back. Therefore, England should use this game to test out defenders for their game against Slovakia on Monday which will be a much harder test.
Injury news: Kiren Trippier pulled out of the England squad on Thursday with a ligament injury and will miss the game.
Head to head
The two sides have met just four times in their history. England have won all four of those games.
The last time the two sides met was October 2016 in a World Cup qualifier. England won 2-0 with Daniel Sturridge and Deli Ali the goal scorers.
Last time England travelled to Malta was in June 2000 in a friendly. England won 2-1 with Martin Keown and Emile Heskey scoring England’s goals that day. Richard Wright scored an own goal to give Malta a goal that day.
That own goal in 2000 is also the only time Malta have scored passed England meaning a Malta player has never managed to do it.
Malta XI: Hogg, Failla, Muscat, Agius, Borg, Muscat, Fenech, Pisani, Kristensen, Schembri, Farrugia.
England XI: Hart, Walker, Keane, Cahill, Bertrand, Dier, Chamberlin, Ali, Sterling, Kane, Rashford.
World Cup Qualifier recent form
Malta: L L L L L
England: W D W W D
Given Malta have never beaten England and they have yet to register a point in Group F this has an England win written all over it. Realistically given the quality of England’s squad they should be beating a side like Malta at least 5-0.
However, as mentioned earlier, Southgate will likely use this game to test out players. So, England will probably not play their strongest squad and may try out another new formation. Therefore, England will still likely win, just not as well as everyone will be expecting.
Final score prediction: 3-0 England.