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England betting tips: Back the Three Lions to succeed this week but with struggles along the way


England betting tips: Back the Three Lions to succeed this week but with struggles along the way

A few tweaks in store as Southgate looks to build on England's impressive qualifying record

AN England manager’s first squad selection after a major tournament reveals where the national side is in terms of development. Significant changes represent a fresh start, a new era, while keeping the status quo illustrates that the man at the helm is ‘trusting the process’. Either way, it’s instructive.  

Unsurprisingly, given the Three Lions successful Euro campaign over the summer, Gareth Southgate opted for the latter option, with just a few tweaks made as his team prepare for a triple-header of World Cup qualifying games this week against Hungary, Andorra and Poland. Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold are both recalled after narrowly missing out on the Euros while Patrick Bamford comes in to replace the injured Marcus Rashford. The Leeds striker is set to make his international bow after scoring 17 in the Premier League last term and impressively growing into his potential under Marcelo Bielsa. By and large though, this is the same collective that reached a major final so recently, that came within a pen or two of making history.

Which is fine and sensible and unquestionably the right approach but even so, concerns persist in Southgate’s fascination in right-backs, with another four picked and Kieran Trippier once again expected to deputize for Luke Shaw on the other flank. The omission of Mason Greenwood meanwhile suggests that his transgression in Iceland last year has still not been forgiven and this frustrates, especially as the teen has started the season brightly, scoring three in three.

A stand-out bet for Thursday’s trip to Hungary is under 4.5 corners for England at 29/20. They averaged 4.1 throughout the Euros.

Elsewhere, there are other issues that are beyond the England boss’ control, namely players still at varying levels of fitness and injuries taking a toll. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s withdrawal from the group on Monday with a thigh strain compounded the earlier news that Tyrone Mings has a broken rib, though the Aston Villa centre-back has remained with the squad. The timing of Mings’ setback could not be worse with John Stones still to play a minute of competitive football this term.

If this all sounds a bit doom and gloom, it’s merely mentioned to temper any understandable complacency that arises when England participate in qualifying fixtures, with routine dismissals of inferior nations usually the norm. During Southgate’s five years in charge, he was overseen 20 qualifiers from which his team have lost just the once, averaging 3.15 goals per game all told. On six occasions they have scored five or more.

We should not expect similar straightforward triumphs this time out, as England look to extend on their nine points from nine in Group I; not against Hungary or Poland at least. Against Andorra, the farcical match-up that is sandwiched between these ties, feel free to go nuts and back a ridiculous score-line. The side heading to Wembley this Sunday are ranked lower than New Caledonia, an archipelago in the Pacific ocean. They are there purely to keep the numbers down.  

A hard-earned 2-0 win for the Three Lions in Budapest this Thursday feels about right at 21/4. It will be anything-but-easy, however.  

The Magyars were one of the surprise packages of the Euros, holding their own in a ‘group of death’ and further embellishing a year-long track record of fine results that includes wins over Iceland, Serbia and Turkey. In Roland Sallai and captain Adam Szalai they possess an attacking partnership that effectively compliments the other and their resolve and work-ethic as a team cannot be doubted after causing France and Germany no end of trouble in June. In the hostile environs of the Puskas Arena, Marco Rossi’s men are a potential shock to England’s system.

As for Poland, they may well be a pale imitation of their former selves, with just one win in ten possibly a consequence of Paulo Sousa revising their methodology too drastically and too quickly, leaving them between two proverbial stools. But they still possess Robert Lewandowski, the archest practitioner of goal-scoring on the planet and that always makes them a genuine threat.

After breaking records last season, the 33-year-old has begun 2021/22 in relatively tranquil fashion to date, just scoring the five in three Bundesliga outings.

That’s enough of the pessimism though, even if it does need reiterating that England probably won’t be firing on every cylinder in the games to come. Issues aside, Southgate’s side still have more than enough to navigate both these tricky tests and it will be intriguing to see how big a role Jack Grealish is given across the three contests after settling for super-sub status at the Euros. The chunky-calved schemer created six big chances versus Arsenal last weekend and is already an influential figure at Manchester City. It may exasperate when players have their international standing suddenly elevated from a big move but it at least means England can now benefit from their most bewitching talent since Paul Gascoigne.

The prospect of Grealish interlinking with Raheem Sterling excites and his new City colleague has looked sharp in parts already this season. Harry Kane meanwhile will have gained much from his 90-minute run-out at home to Watford last week and any concerns that recent transfer distractions might affect his impact here should be ignored. Kane has directly been involved in 28 goals in his last 28 appearances for his country.

The Three Lions are 6/4 to score in both halves in Budapest.  

For all of the nagging doubts about the timing of these games, and additional worries about Kane’s readiness and the underwhelming early form of Jadon Sancho at Old Trafford, England’s attack remains a formidable proposition, and the same can be said of their back-line too. Should Mings be unavailable and Stones considered a touch game-rusty, we can anticipate Conor Coady to step in alongside Harry Maguire, but that’s okay because in four of his previous five caps, England have kept clean sheets. More so, Southgate’s shut-out kings have been breached only twice in their last 1200 minutes of international football.

A slight, but bankable 13/20 is available for only one or neither side to score on Thursday.

With a fair wind, and no further injuries, England might very well have all-but-wrapped up the group by this time next week. But it will be difficult and more so than usual. Perhaps though, that is just what they need right now? 

 

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