Friendlies are often touted as being meaningless matches played either to test new formations or give other players a chance before the big tournaments but on Tuesday night, this matchup between two neighbours will not be a friendly under any circumstance.
England face Scotland at Celtic Park for what can be called as the matchup between two of the most inform sides from the EURO 2016 qualifiers. The two teams last met in 2013 when England came out 3-2 winners over the Scots thanks to a second half goal from Rickie Lambert, who was making his international debut.
England have won all their qualifying games for EURO 2016 while Scotland have had a resurgence under Gordan Strachan and in a tough group have 7 points from 4 games. Scotland are looking forward to qualifying for their first major tournament since 1998.
This fixture was an annual meeting for the countries since they first met in Glasgow in 1872 and was a highlight for both teams but the meeting was stopped from 1989, since then they have met only 4 times with England winning thrice and Scotland once.
This would be the 112th meeting of the sides and both come off victories, England beat Slovenia 3-1 while Scotland beat Ireland 1-0 during their recent EURO 2016 qualifiers. England boss could spring a surprise or two by handing out starts to the likes of Saido Berahino or Ross Barkley, in the game against Slovenia, Hodgson handed out a start to Southampton left back Nathaniel Clyne, who impressed in this outing.
Wayne Rooney will be looking to captain the side once again, he scored a penalty in the last game against Slovenia which was his 100th cap for the English national side. There could also be a change in the goalkeeping department with either Ben Foster or Fraser Forster, Fraser Forster knows the Celtic ground well having played there before making the move to Southampton.
Gordon Strachan has also hinted that he may make a few changes to his side, after an impressive win against Ireland, Strachan could give a start to Rangers midfielder Macleod, the home side would have Celtics Craig Gordon in goal, this would be his first international start in almost 4 years. If Forster also plays, it would quite an evening with the former and current goalkeeper facing off against each other at Celtic Park.
Gordon vs. Forster
The current Celtic goalkeeper taking on the former Celtic goalkeeper. Gordon, if he starts, has been in the doldrums of international football for almost 4 years. His impressive performances for Sunderland have come to naught and he has to start all over again to reclaim his Scotland no 1 goalkeeper title. Forster on the other hand is a rising talent and will be looking to displace Joe Hart as England’s go to goalkeeper
Scotland’s wingbacks vs. England’s wingers
Whittaker and Robertson will have their work cut out against England’s wingers. Whoever amongst Downing, Sterling or Oxlade-Chamberlain play, the Scottish players will find it hard to deal with the place the English players have and with Downing having an incredible start to the season, keeping him quiet could be really tough.
Strachan vs. Hodgson
Both managers are looking to give some of the other fringe players a chance but this is not any ordinary friendly and both sets of players are looking forward to getting one over their rivals. The decisions taken by either manager for substitutes or formations could work in their favour if the right call is made.
Scotland have not qualified for a major tournament since 1998
This will be the 112th meeting between the two sides
Craig Gordon could be making his first international appearance in 4 years
England have won their last 5 matches in a row
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan: “[The players] have done great, absolutely fantastic… We might try something different in terms of our shape, but listen, we’ve got to go on and win it, that’s what we’ve got to try and do. Everyone in the squad would like to have a game but I want to win it. That is the priority. I’d love to give everyone a touch of it; especially the guys who have been here the whole ten days. Give them a touch of the ball; I’d like to do that because it is very hard to come away for ten days, non-stop, and not get a feel of the ball. We will try and do that.”
England manager Roy Hodgson: “We will take the game very seriously. Please don’t get the impression that I don’t take the game seriously and don’t have a lot of respect for it because I do. But that’s the same for every game, to be fair. That was the case with Norway and Denmark in recent friendlies because that’s the way we operate. I make it clear to the players that you don’t get many international possibilities, whether you are playing San Marino or whether you are playing Argentina or Germany or Brazil. [On his team selection] Obviously there are players I would like to see, so there is a potential to change things and it’s not going to be a question of sending the bulk of these players home… We want to go up there with a big team… I think Scotland are a footballing team. They have a lot of ball players – James Morrison, Graham Dorrans, I’ve worked with these guys. They are good footballers and I think we’ve got good footballers, so I think it will be more of a fierce footballing contest rather than a fierce physical contest.”
Scotland XI: Gordon, Whittaker, R Martin, Hanley, Robertson, Brown, Maloney, Mulgrew, Anya, C Martin, Naysmith
England XI: Forster, Smalling, Chambers, Jagielka, Shaw, Milner, Henderson, Downing, Berahino, Rooney, Oxlade-Chamberlain
A tough game to call, Scotland will be buoyed by their recent prevails in the qualifying group and will have huge backing at home, Celtic park is being called “Hell-tic” park for the opponents. England haven’t been at their best but still have won all their games in the EURO 2016 qualifying round, even with their fire power this should be a tight game to call. The match should end in a draw, not a goalless one, probably 2-2.
Quotes courtesy: Eurosport.com
Picture courtesy: Talksport