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Albania v England – World Cup Qualifier
Sunday March 28 – 5pm
A trip to Albania might have been a banana skin in normal circumstances, but the absence of a hostile atmosphere makes Sunday night’s game rather straightforward for England.
Gareth Southgate’s side opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a predictably comfortable win over San Marino at Wembley, although their wastefulness in front of goal may worry the manager ahead of more important games against Poland and Hungary in the future.
The Three Lions had a whopping 32 shots in their 5-0 win on Thursday night and will surely be disappointed that the scoreline wasn’t a lot more comprehensive. However, Southgate didn’t field his strongest XI and will probably turn to some of his big hitters on Sunday in what looks like a tougher game on paper.
In reality, England should have far too much for an Albania side that could only manage a 1-0 at lowly Andorra on Thursday.
Southgate understandably decided to give his fringe players a chance and left Harry Kane out of the San Marino fixture, but the England captain will be desperate to get some playing time in Tirana on Sunday night as he continues to hunt down Wayne Rooney’s all-time goalscoring record.
Kane is only 21 goals off Rooney in England’s scoring charts and would have almost certainly made a significant dent if he played against the minnows of San Marino on Thursday.
However, he now comes into Sunday’s game off the back of a week-long rest and should be chomping at the bit against one of the weaker sides in England’s group.
With a crucial game against Poland coming up on Wednesday, Gareth Southgate will want to wrap this one up as quickly as possible and their recent form in qualifiers suggests that they will have this game sewn up by the interval.
England have managed to score at least one first-half goal in their last nine qualifying games, while they have scored two or more on six occasions in their last eight qualifiers.
In total, England have scored 22 goals in their last nine first halves and should have little trouble replicating that form on Sunday.
Albania might have dominated against Andorra in their opening game on Thursday, but the fact remains that they only scored one goal against a side ranked 151st in the world. The chances of them matching that tally against a superior English side are slim at best.
England only conceded six goals in their last qualifying campaign – with five coming in two crazy games against Kosovo and the Czech Republic – and they conceded just three goals in their previous qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.
Their defensive record is generally impeccable in the qualifiers and they will hope to record back-to-back clean sheets prior to that crucial clash with Poland at Wembley on Wednesday.
Albania v England tips
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