England can maintain their perfect start to the Euro 2016 qualifying process with victory at home to Lithuania on Friday (19:45 GMT, live on ITV1).
The Three Lions come into their first international of 2015 on the back of six consecutive wins since their disappointing early exit from last year’s World Cup in Brazil. They top qualification Group E, with 12 points from four victories with no draws or defeats.
Roy Hodgson’s side beat Scotland 3-1 in a impressively controlled performance in their final match of 2014. They were composed and comfortable throughout, despite an intimidating atmosphere inside Celtic Park. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring, before a Wayne Rooney (pictured) double, either side of the Scotland goal, saw them to victory.
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England should have little trouble qualifying for Euro 2016 after taking maximum points from their first four matches of the campaign. There are two automatic places available from the group, while the third-placed team could qualify automatically but will at least be guaranteed a playoff place. It would take disastrous results from here on to see them fail to do so.
Hodgson therefore has a little leeway to experiment with different formations and players between now and the end of the campaign. Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Ryan Mason are the new faces on this occasion, with the former in with a good chance of starting up front alongside Rooney. With Jack Wilshere injured, Michael Carrick has been recalled.
Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Fraser Forster and Luke Shaw all pulled out of Hodgson’s initial squad due to injury but there does not appear to be any injury doubts among those who have joined up with the group for the pre-match training sessions.
Lithuania arrive in London having won two, lost two and drawn two of their last six internationals. They are fourth in qualification Group E, level on points with the two sides directly above them, with six points from two wins and two defeats.
Igoris Pankratjevas’ side drew 0-0 away to Ukraine in their final international of last year. While it was only a friendly, it still represented a good result against a side currently ranked a full 63 places above them in the FIFA World Rankings. It was certainly a more solid defensive display than that of the 4-0 qualifying defeat away to Switzerland that preceded it.
Lithuania are yet to qualify for a major international tournament since gaining their independence from the Soviet Union back in 1991. They have, however, made a solid start to the Euro 2016 qualifiers and with at least a playoff place available to the team that finishes third in the group, they will harbour some hopes of doing so this time around.
There is not a lot of firepower in the current squad, which features not a single player with more than five international goals to their name. Deivydas Matulevicius is probably the biggest final-third threat, with a solid record at club level in Romania. British audiences may be familiar with Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas and Leicester’s Simonas Stankevicius.
Pankratjevas had hoped to be able to call on South-African born defender Larry Cohen for this match. However, despite receiving a Lithuanian passport, Cohen did not receive the okay from FIFA in time to take part.
England v Lithuania Betting Tips
This is the first meeting between these sides at international level. Lithuania won at home and lost away to Scotland during the qualification process for Euro 2004 but have not faced a British side since.
England have little reason for concern coming into the match. Lithuania were heavily beaten by Switzerland in their last competitive away fixture and even with a couple of absentees, Hodgson’s side have more than enough quality to record a similarly convincing victory. By doing so, they would extend their winning streak at Wembley to six matches.
Lithuania have lost seven of their last 10 competitive internationals on the road and while the expansion of the European Championship to 24 teams has provided them with a semi-realistic chance of competing for a place at their first international tournament, they are unlikely to come away from Wembley with any points to their name.
- Back England -2 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 33/40 (that’s almost 10/11) with Bet365. If England win by two goals your stake is returned, while a win by three or more goals sees the bet pay out.
- Rooney has scored in each of his last four international appearances and has notched seven goals in his last eight, including a double against Scotland last time out. He is only three goals away from equalling Bobby Charlton’s long-standing England scoring record. Back Wayne Rooney to score two or more goals @ 7/2 with Unibet.