All the home nations continue on the road to the 2018 World Cup this weekend.
England are hosting Lithuania at Wembley, Scotland entertain Slovenia, Northern Ireland take on Norway at Windsor Park whilst there is also a derby clash with Republic of Ireland and Wales taking on each other in Dublin.
England’s game will mark Gareth Southgate’s first competitive game since being handing the job on a permanent basis and he will be looking for a better result having seen his side go down to Germany in midweek.
However, Southgate was more than happy with the performance in Dortmund and is looking forward to facing Lithuania.
“We also looked at the way Germany play and I thought it was a good system to play against them to try and stop what they do with their full-backs getting high.
“So it posed them a problem rather than just us being reactive all the time. It meant we were able to press higher up the pitch, so it was a good performance all round.
“We have a qualifier at Wembley, so we are always excited by that, we are looking forward to putting on a good performance for our fans at home.”
Manchester City pair Raheem Sterling and John Stones missed the game in Germany, but both are expected to come back into the starting line-up. Stones is needed as Gary Cahill – who captained the side on Wednesday – is suspended. Middlesbrough’s uncapped defender Ben Gibson has also been added to the squad.
Whilst England were happy with their midweek work-out, the same cannot be said for Gordon Strachan’s Scotland as they were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Canada at Easter Road.
Celtic quintet Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown, James Forrest and Stuart Armstrong were all rested after being in action on the Sunday and they should all feature against Slovenia at Hampden – which would mean a debut for Armstrong.
Both Scotland and Slovenia know that defeat would almost certainly spell the end of their qualification hopes.
Northern Ireland are in second place in Group C, five points behind leaders Germany, and they will look to enhance their qualification hopes with victory over Norway in Belfast. Charlton Athletic striker Josh Magennis is a doubt for Michael O’Neill – but he has a near fully fit squad to chose from for the clash.
See below for a run-down on all the games involving the home nations, including predictions from world renowned football agent and GamblingTimes.com columnist Barry Silkman and our own Football Insider Graeme Bailey, together with everything you need to know from the bookies – with BetVictor’s Jack Milner.
England v Lithuania – 17:00 March 26th
KEY FACT: England haven’t lost a qualification match since October 2009 (away at Ukraine), going 33 qualifiers without a defeat since then across World Cup and European Championship qualification campaigns.
MATCH ODDS: England 1/10 Draw 8/1 Lithuania 33/1
SILKY SAYS: England played well midweek, I I think they will make easy work of this and be a huge win – 6-0
TGT INSIDER SAYS: Depends which England turn up, but they should make easy work of this game – 3-0
BOOKIE SAYS: England are odds-on in both the double-result market and to beat Lithuania to nil so there’s little value in the more ‘popular’ markets on Sunday. I think Dele Alli and Adam Lallana are a class apart to their team-mates and are surprised to see them both odds-against to net anytime at Wembley. BetVictor’s recommendation: Dele Alli to score anytime at 23/20 and Adam Lallana to score at anytime at 13/8
Scotland v Slovenia – 19:45 March 26th
KEY FACT: These two nations have met three times on the international stage, with Scotland winning once and drawing the other two.
MATCH ODDS: Scotland 11/8 Draw 2/1 Slovenia 12/5
SILKY SAYS: Scotland really are not playing well – I can’t see them winning this one – 1-1
TGT INSIDER SAYS: Scotland need to win this and with some new players, I think they will do it – 2-1
BOOKIE SAYS: Gordon Strachan’s side have only kept one clean sheet in their last ten competitive games but I don’t expect to see many goals in Glasgow and one might be enough – let’s hope the Scots can keep the points. BetVictor’s recommendation: Under 1.5 goals at 8/5
Northern Ireland v Norway – 19:45 March 26th
KEY FACT: Lars Lagerback takes charge of his first game with Norway.
MATCH ODDS: N.Ireland 7/5 Draw 21/10 Norway 9/4
SILKY SAYS: I think Norway might find something here, but it will be close – 1-2
TGT INSIDER SAYS: Northern Ireland have a great team spirit and that won’t end against an average Norway squad – 2-0
BOOKIE SAYS: Northern Ireland have lost six of their seven games against Norway but Michael O’Neill has done a great job for the Green and White Army losing just one of his last ten qualifying matches and that was to World Champions Germany. This is a very ordinary Norwegian side and I expect to see a tight, close affair at Windsor Park with chances at a premium. BetVictor’s recommendation: Both Teams NOT to score at 3/4.