On the eve of the new Premier League season, England and Scotland lock horns for the first time in 14 years in a friendly at Wembley on Wednesday (19:00 BST, live on ITV1).
The first international match was contested by these two countries in 1872. They have met on a total of 110 occasions, but only three times since the annual match between them was scrapped in 1989.
This fixture represents the centrepiece of the English Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations and with the historical rivalry having been put on ice for over a decade it is sure to be a fiercely contested encounter.
It is England who come into the fixture in the better shape, undefeated in their five matches to date in 2013, but with their qualification group for the 2014 World Cup remaining wide open. The match provides coach Roy Hodgson (pictured) with an opportunity to fine tune his squad ahead of the remaining qualifiers.
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert (31) has been rewarded for his 15 goals and series of robust displays in his debut top flight campaign last season, while new Manchester United recruit Wilfred Zaha (20) has been selected on the back of some strong pre-season displays for the Red Devils.
Lambert and Zaha, Jack Wiltshire and Steven Gerrard are the only major additions to the squad who faced off against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil in late May and early June. Wayne Rooney has been called up despite an injury plagued pre-season, with Hodgson emphasising his importance to the national team set up in the build up to the match.
Hodgson was criticised for the lacklustre nature of England’s display in the 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland and will be aware of the need to improve his side’s performances against teams who set up to prevent them space. To that end, the return of Wiltshire will be a welcome boost to England’s midfield creativity.
Hodgson employed a counter-attacking 4-3-3 formation in the 2-2 draw against Brazil that preceded the off-season break, which, after a poor first half display, proved an adept vessel for their second half comeback, which very nearly saw England take victory in the Maracana. He is, however, likely to return to his trusted 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation on Wednesday.
Scotland’s hopes of reaching Brazil 2014 have already been dashed, but they did at least show some fight and determination in their most recent qualifier, an impressive 1-0 win away to Croatia in Zagreb. In a compact, well-organised performance, Robert Snodgrass’ early goal was enough to nudge Scotland to victory.
The win represented Gordon Strachan’s first competitive success since replacing Craig Levein in the latter part of last year and boosted morale following defeats at home to Wales and away to Serbia in March that ruled Scotland out of the race for qualification.
Scotland do, though, still have FIFA ranking points to play for in the remaining fixtures of the group, starting with the visit of Belgium to Hampden Park in early September, which will determine the difficulty of their qualification group for the expanded 24-team European Championships of 2016.
Strachan is tasked with forming a side that can be disciplined and obdurate against the more talented nations and creative and incisive against the lesser ones. The presence of the likes of Snodgrass, James Morrison and Shaun Maloney – neat, technically able players who also do their fair share of defensive work – will be helpful towards both goals.
Scotland are without captain Darren Fletcher (bowel condition) and striker Steven Fletcher (ankle injury) for Wednesday’s match, but Strachan is again able to call on Celtic midfielder Scott Brown, who missed the Croatia victory with a hip problem. There are returns, too, for Brown’s club teammates Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest and veteran striker Kenny Miller.
England vs Scotland Betting Tips Verdict
These two countries are currently separated by 36 places in the FIFA Rankings and although that system has its flaws, it is clear that there is currently a gap in quality between them that tips the balance in England’s favour.
England also have the historical advantage, having won 45 of the 110 matches to date. Scotland have won 41, while 24 of the encounters between them have ended in draws,
Scotland are likely to employ a balanced, counter-attacking style at Wembley and it will be up to England to break them down. Hodgson’s men are the most likely victors, but the margin is unlikely to be significant.
- Therefore, back Scotland +1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ 27/40 with Bet365.
- Rooney has scored in four of England’s five fixtures to date in 2013, and has scored eight times in his last 10 appearances for the national team. He is not fully match fit, but is expected to play some part on Wednesday and can be fancied to further bolster his scoring record. Bet on Wayne Rooney to score at anytime @ best odds of 6/5 with BetVictor.