ENGLAND host Ireland on Thursday night. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up .
England vs Republic of Ireland | Thursday 12th November 2020, 20:00 | ITV
It’s the time for every Premier League manager to hide behind the sofa – after a hectic spell of domestic action lets bring on an international friendly!
For England, the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Ward-Prowse have been joined on the treatment table, or separate ones at least, by Joe Gomez, while Ireland are without Enda Stevens, Aaron Connolly and now Callum Robinson.
With Nations League games on the horizon for both countries all within the next week we should expect to see some experimentation from both managers here and a decent shuffle of their pack – whether that will lead to keen and hungry fringe players looking to catch the eye or to a disjointed affair we will just have to wait and see.
For me, I can see this fixture taking a similar shape to the Three Lions recent Wembley friendly with Wales, whose team had a sprinkling of Championship talent as well as League One midfielder Jonny Williams, enthusiastically starting well before fizzling out to succumb to a 3-0 defeat.
Ireland are without a win in six games, a sequence which stretches back to almost exactly a year ago when they recoded a 3-1 victory over New Zealand on 14th November – Stephen Kenny’s men haven’t even registered a goal in their last four.
Although England had spluttered to their recent successes prior to the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Denmark in their last outing they should have too much strength in depth here and we should expect them return to winning ways.
Not only have Ireland failed to beat a side currently ranked in FIFA’s top 100 on foreign soil in their last 12 attempts (W0-D7-L5) the last time they tasted success on English soil was way back in 1949.
So although I’m not expecting a goal fest – the three goals scored in the victory against the Welsh is putting me off any kind of unders bet (England to win and Under 2.5 Goals is only a best priced 9/4 with Betway) – I would like to keep that kind of scoreline onside, therefore instead I am going to play England -1 handicap with Bet365 at 21/20.
Forecasting England's set-up
As always predicting the line ups of these sides is something of a minefield but lets try and get in to Gareth Southgate’s mind – I wouldn’t fit in to the waistcoat after all.
One position the England boss can possibly afford absentees is in the full back position so with the aforementioned Gomez and TAA out of contention there is a strong possibility Chelsea’s Reece James will get a full 90 at the national stadium as he is suspended for the upcoming games with Belgium and Iceland due to his red card after the full time whistle against the Danes.
The 20-year-old has really caught the eye in the early stages of the season and was arguably England’s best player on his full debut before blotting his copybook with that outburst to referee. Not only looking sound defensively but impressing offensively as all modern day full/wing backs have to with a goal and two assists to his name from eight starts for his club.
SkyBet are offering 11/8 for James to have two or more attempts at goal and given that not only is he likely to have the game time to achieve that he has done just that in his last two league games for Chelsea and in that defeat to Denmark.
England should see plenty of the ball – they even managed 49% despite playing with 10 men for an hour against the Danes but have averaged 54% in the current Nations League campaign, so James should be found regularly in advanced positions.
Another player who will be out to impress is Jack Grealish, IF he is given an opportunity by his manager. The overlooking of the Aston Villa skipper for selection has caused widespread controversy but as he did against Wales could well get a start here.
His current form certainly warrants it especially in a side seemingly lacking creativity, after scoring four goals and assisting a further five in seven Premier League appearances this season, added to this it was Grealish’s cross that was nodded home by Dominic Calvert-Lewin to open the scoring in the last Wembley friendly.
Like James, there is a strong chance the 25-year-old playmaker will get at least the majority of the 90 minutes against the Irish and his threat is emphasised by odds of 15/8 to score (SkyBet) and 11/10 to assist a goal (William Hill).
Pretty short odds so I am thinking if Grealish is to do one or both of those things and with the fact I can’t recall a commentary team who haven’t drooled over his every move, it would be more than likely to be enough to be named the Man of the Match, so I’m taking a chance on the 9/2 with William Hill he will be ITV’s choice for that award.
England vs Republic of Ireland – England (-1) Handicap Result (21/20 Bet365)
England vs Republic of Ireland – Reece James 2+ shots (11/8 SkyBet)
England vs Republic of Ireland – Jack Grealish ITV Man of the Match (9/2 William Hill)