With three teams tightly bunched at the head of their World Cup qualification group, England will be looking to kick off the September double header with a comfortable victory at home to Moldova on Friday (20:00 BST, live on ITV 1).
England are currently second in Group H, one point ahead of the Ukraine, whom they face in Kiev next Tuesday. Montenegro lead the group, two points clear of England, but have played one more match than both of their closest pursuers.
Roy Hodgson (pictured) would likely be content with four points from these fixtures as England then enjoy home advantage in their final two matches, against Montenegro and Poland. But in such an evenly poised group, any slip ups now could be fatal.
Hodgson will be glad to have the easier of the two fixtures first, with Moldova currently fifth in the six team group with five points from seven matches. They have won once (away in San Marino), drawn twice and lost four times, scoring four and conceding 11.
England stormed to a 5-0 victory when the sides met in Moldova in the first fixture of the group, with a double from Frank Lampard and singles from Jermain Defoe, James Milner and Leighton Baines securing a simple victory. But they have not found the rest of the group as easy going, winning two and drawing three of the following five matches.
Hodgson had to watch on as a succession of players picked up injuries last weekend, thus ruling themselves out of contention for international duty.
The most high profile was Wayne Rooney, who suffered a serious cut to his forehead in a training ground accident on Saturday and will be out of action for two weeks. He had scored eight times in his previous 11 England appearances and will be missed, if not on Friday then certainly in the Ukraine next week.
In Rooney’s absence, Hodgson’s choice of forwards has been reduced to four and perhaps even three for the Moldova match, with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge currently nursing a thigh injury. Sturridge is in excellent form, having scored five times in four matches for Liverpool this season and Hodgson may be loath to risk him on Friday.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Jermain Defoe missed training on Tuesday, but is expected to be fit for Friday’s match and will compete with Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert for a place up front. Lambert’s England career got off to a fairytale start with his winner from the bench in the 3-2 victory over Scotland in August and he will hope for another chance to impress.
The other problem area for Hodgson is right-back. Withdrawals from Glen Johnson and Phil Jones have left Tottenham’s Kyle Walker is the only recognised right-back in the squad. Walker was far from his best in Tottenham’s North London derby defeat to Arsenal, but has generally performed competently for England in the past.
Everton’s Ross Barkley and Tottenham’s Andros Townsend have both started the season well at club level and have been rewarded with places in the squad, although it is likely both will be bench options rather than contenders for a starting place. Barkley, in particular, looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
The 5-0 home defeat to England still remains Moldova’s worst of the qualifying group and they have, in fact, conceded an average of just one goal per match since. A stronger defensive setup allowed them to secure credible draws at home to Poland and the Ukraine.
Ion Caras is in the midst of his third spell as national team coach and was the man in charge when Moldova played at Wembley for the first time 16 years ago. His side were 4-0 losers that day and in pre-match press conferences he has made it clear that anything other than defeat this time around would represent a miracle.
England vs Moldova Betting Tips Verdict
Minimum fuss and maximum efficiency is what England will be aiming for on Friday, with three points and no further injuries the desired outcome.
England have struggled against the better teams in the group but have made light work of the minnows, handing both Moldova and San Marino their largest beatings of the group to date.
Moldova have improved as a unit since losing 5-0 to England in Chisinau, but are nevertheless unlikely to pose a major threat at Wembley in what should be a comfortable victory for their hosts.
- Back England to win by 3 or more goals @ 1/2 (first advised here at 4/6 but the odds have shortened since) with SkyBet.
- Defoe scored in the away win in Moldova and also got a double in the later 8-0 victory away in San Marino. Two goals in Tottenham’s Europa League qualifying round win over Dinamo Tbilisi showed that he is still sharp despite not starting in the league and he will been keen to make an impression on Friday. Bet on Jermain Defoe to score at anytime @ 5/6 with Bet365 or SkyBet.