Battle lines will be drawn at Hampden Park, Glasgow on Saturday evening when Scotland take on England in a crucial World Cup 2018 qualifying clash.
England are favourites for the win but Scotland go into the game in bullish mood. Manager Gordon Strachan claimed that their 3-0 loss at Wembley in November was an anomaly and that the chances his side created that night were every bit as good as England’s.
The Scotland camp know fullly well that they are outsiders, but they will experience the good feeling brought into the camp by the Celtic squad members, who just completed an unbeaten domestic season. It could propel them to victory against a star-studded England line-up. Here we look at three key battles which will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the game.
Predicting Srachan’s starting XI is not the easiest thing to do, but whoever plays as their senior centre-back will need to be on the ball against Kane. True, Kane is remembered by the international community for having a shocking Euro 2016 tournament, but so did most of his team mates.
The truth though, is that the 23-year-old Tottenham striker has scored 21, 25 and 29 goals in his last three Premier League seasons and has got better and better. There will be no putting him on corners and free-kicks this time. The only thing that would be interesting, is him getting half a yard of space or a hint of a shooting chance. He will find the back of the net for sure. Stopping this could be absolutely crucial.
Stopping Alli goes hand-in-hand with stopping Kane. The link-up between the two players at Spurs was telepathic and if Alli is allowed to slip his passes through, then Kane will gobble up the chances. Brown, or whoever plays deep in the midfield, will not be charged with stopping the passes alone.
Alli’s ghosting runs into the box are legendary now and he adds a crucial goal threat for his team. Don’t be surprised to see some fouls being committed by Brown, nor should he be ashamed of them. Alli must be stopped at any cost.
We could go on and on with England’s dangers in the final third, from Walker bombing forward from right-back, to Sterling attempting to bamboozle the full-backs, Alli’s runs, Kane’s goal threat and so on. All of that may mean nothing if Craig Gordon has a blinder.
Gordon is an excellent and experienced ‘keeper who has seen it all before. Many games have taken place in the past in which the heavy favourite bombards the opposition goal but does not have the piercing accuracy to score a goal. If England are to have one of those days on Saturday, Gordon needs to be at his best, as a string of good saves could be enough to keep any goal scorer at bay.
I can’t help feeling that Gordon has to play well if Scotland are to get a result.
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