England commence their latest quest to bring football home.
I’m very much still part of the Three Lions Love Affair. While I’ve heard some grumblings about the international break, I’m in the Watching The National Team Is Fun Again camp, so I personally love it when Gareth’s boys come to the fore; it’s a welcome break from the stress of following Brighton’s Premier League relegation battle, that’s for sure.
While there’s a Nations League trip to Portugal to look forward to in June, there’s still a European Championships to qualify for, and I’m backing England to get off to a winning start against the Czech Republic.
The players have been playing under Southgate for a while now, and the identity they’re developing under him is getting stronger and stronger – the wonderful victory against Croatia at Wembley back in November is certainly evidence of this.
Friday’s opponents are decent, but little more. They finished second in a Nations League group containing Ukraine and Slovakia, and on that evidence, I can’t see past a fairly comfortable England victory.
The value here is backing England to win with a -1 handicap, and I’m putting 2pts into this; it’s an especially good pick to put into an acca.
The likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho make this England side an incredibly exciting one, and I have no doubts they’ll get the job done on Friday.
Along similar lines, and perhaps more of a banker, I’m backing England to keep a clean sheet.
In their World Cup qualification campaign, England kept clean sheets in eight of their 10 matches, and Wembley is generally a fortress when it comes to competitive games, with very few sides coming away with anything at all – goals included.
Roma’s Patrik Schick is certainly a handy striker, but he’s still pretty raw, and I suspect Big H and co. will marshal him effectively.
While his goalscoring record for England is bizarrely unflattering – particularly when you see how freely he bangs them in at club level – I do think Raheem Sterling will soon start scoring for England with more regularity.
The winger is enjoying the best season of his career at Manchester City, and you feel his brace against Spain in the Nations League was something of a watershed moment in his England career.
I expect him to push on from this, which is why I’m backing Sterling to score and England to win, priced at 15/8. Though I’ve already backed England to win in this preview, putting it alongside the Anytime Goalscorer market does add a nice bit of value.