Gareth Southgate’s England side make the trip to face Malta in 2018 World Cup Qualifying tomorrow, as they continue their bid to make it to a 10th consecutive World Cup.
The Three Lions come into the tie in top place of Group F and favourites to be winners, with The Knights of Malta sitting in sixth, after failing to register a single point so far.
The tie will take place tomorrow with a kick-off time of 7:45 PM BST, the Friday night fixture is also scheduled for a day after transfer deadline day with many internationals returning to their domestic countries at different clubs from which they left.
In The UK, Coverage of the game will be broadcasted on ITV One, with the program starting at 7:15 PM, a full 30 minutes before kick-off. If you don’t have access to a TV tomorrow night, you can also catch Live Radio Commentary from Malta on TalkSport.
The Maltese National Stadium in Ta’ Qali will host the fixture, opening in 1981, it has a capacity of close to 17,000.
It is the first time that the England senior squad have visited the stadium in 17 years, with their last visit coming in the form of a 1-2 friendly victory. However, the Three Lions U17 side have tasted recent success at the venue in recent times by winning the 2014 European U17 Championship in Malta.
Gareth Southgate included two new faces in his squad for Friday’s clash and our home visit of Slovakia, as Leicester City’s Harry Maguire and Watford’s Nathaniel Chalobah could make their England debuts.
However, one man who would have been featuring but isn’t is all-time top goal scorer Wayne Rooney, who recently retired from international football. Squad rotation is expected to be adopted by the former Middlesbrough boss, as he also claimed that the captaincy would be spread around the team in Rooney’s absence.
There has been one withdrawal from the Squad and that was Everton’s Jordan Pickford, as he flies back to Merseyside with a muscular injury whereas, the hosts are bolstered by the inclusion of their highest goal scorer, leading appearance maker and national treasure, former Coventry City man Michael Mifsud.
Rangers’ Myles Beerman, Ebbsfleet United’s Sam Magri, and Luton Town’s Luke Gambin will be all hoping that they can inflict a shock on an opponent that is very close to home for them.
Founded in 1957, the Maltese national side has suffered a rollercoaster advance across the world of International Football and currently have a FIFA Ranking of 190th.
The island nation have never reached a major tournament but did once beat a strong Belgium side back in 1994. Surely the highlight of their short existence came in 2008, with a record 7-1 thrashing of Liechtenstein on home soil.
But in their last outing, they were beaten by Slovenia 2-0, after shocking Ukraine 0-1 in a friendly back in June.
The last 12 months have been choppy, to say the least from The Three Lions’ point of view, with the Allardyce saga and a turbulent start to Southgate’s spell as manager.
But things have looked to have evened themselves out now, as England are on the verge of winning a sixth successive qualifying group. Last time out, the Three Lions were beaten by France in Paris and have only won once out of four games this year.
However, with a disappointing FIFA rank of 13th and a diabolical recent record at major tournaments, England fans are not holding their breaths for Russia 2018, should they qualify.
The English and the Maltese have only met four times in Competition Football, with the Three Lions victorious on every occasion, winning 0-1, 5-0, 1-2 and 2-0.
Interestingly, no Malta born player has ever scored against an England side, despite their unlikely penalty in 2000, but any chance of the home side notching a goal tomorrow is very unlikely.
Who Is Officiating?
Artur Soares Dias of Portugal will be the man in the middle for the clash, with the duo of Rui Tavares and Paulo Santos, and Joao Pinheiro completing the all Portuguese team as fourth official.
So, with the scene set for Pietro Ghedin to take on Gareth Southgate, can England take a huge leap to vital qualification for the World Cup? Or will the hosts pull off a near impossible shock?