Set against the backdrop of the opening of the St George’s Park centre of excellence, England face international minows San Marino at Wembley on Friday evening.
The state of the art facility has been heralded as the beginning of a new dawn for English football and Roy Hodgson will expect to meet expectations with a dominant display against a team ranked 3rd from bottom in the FIFA rankings.
But the England boss will be without a host of key players for the World Cup Qualifier. Captain, Steven Gerrard and Liverpool team mate Glen Johnson are both suspended while Chelsea duo Ryan Bertrand and Frank Lampard have pulled out of the squad. The 34-year-old midfielder misses the game because of a knee injury and fellow Blues player, Bertrand has withdrawn due to illness. Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe spent time in the gym as his team mates trained, but the in form striker is expected to be fit.
It remains to be seen whether Hodgson will use what should be a relatively easy game as an opportunity to play less experienced players. However, given the opening of St George’s Park the focus on the national team is perhaps intensified and the manager will not want any hiccups against a team of part-timers. Therefore you can expect Hodgson to field a strong team in the hope that England deliver a convincing victory.
Despite that, the Three Lions will take to the pitch with a somewhat experimental defence. Following John Terry’s retirement, the centre back slots will be filled by the previous understudys to Terry and Ferdinand. Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott will all want to cement their place at the hear of the Englanc backline. Kyle Walker is expected to deputise in Glen Johnson’s absence. Despite his twitter rant, Ashley Cole is in line to win his 99th England cap.
Hodgson will hope that the issues regarding Cole and Terry added to Gerrard’s suspension will not harm his teams chances. Playing a team that has won only one match, the manager should have no concerns and England are well placed to record an impressive victory.
Prediction- 6-0. It could and probably should be more than this but I expect England to start strongly and put the game beyond doubt as quickly as possible, which should allow for some new faces to enter the fold in the second half.
Possible Line Up- Hart; Walker, Jagielka, Lescott, Cole; Milner, Carrick, Cleverly, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Rooney, Defoe.