International football’s oldest rivalry returns when England face Scotland at Wembley in Euro 2020 on Friday at 8pm (UK time).
The Three Lions sent out a real statement of intent with an impressive 1-0 win over Croatia in their Group D opener, exacting revenge for their 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat. Gareth Southgate’s men put in a measured, controlled performance to keep Croatia at arm’s length, with Raheem Sterling’s 57th-minute strike enough to seal the three points.
Just a day later, things didn’t quite go to plan for Scotland on their return to major tournament football after a 23-year absence. Steve Clarke’s men fell to a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic at Hampden Park, with Patrik Schick first delivering a bullet header into the bottom corner before registering an early contender for goal of the tournament, firing home from just inside the Scotland half.
Both sides are in need of all three points here, while England vs Scotland is always a must-win occasion, even away from the bright lights of the European Championships. With that in mind, we’ve come up with five predictions for the game, including possible line-ups and scoreline.
England vs Scotland odds with William Hill…
- England: 1/3
- Draw: 4/1
- Scotland: 10/1
1. Possible England XI
As the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Such was the impressive nature of England’s performance against Croatia, Southgate has absolutely no need to make drastic changes to his starting XI.
Jordan Pickford had a quiet Sunday afternoon and will continue between the sticks (especially given Dean Henderson has withdrawn from the squad due to injury) while John Stones and Tyrone Mings will once again form a solid centre-back partnership in front of him. The pace of Kyle Walker at right-back will be important in pinning Andy Robertson back while, on the left, Kieran Trippier put in a strong performance against Croatia and so could continue to keep Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell out of the side.
Kalvin Phillips was the star of the show against Croatia, denying the likes of Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic the space they needed to dominate the game, while driving the ball forward himself and grabbing the assist for Sterling’s winning goal. He’s certainly done enough to retain his place.
Alongside Phillips, Rice played a hugely important role in helping England progress the ball, dropping in alongside Stones while England were in possession to provide a passing option. This will be his role once again, though England will be expected to dominate the ball slightly further forward on Friday.
Phil Foden came agonisingly close to opening the scoring against Croatia with his curling effort hitting the post, but he’ll have his work cut out going up against Scotland’s left flank, especially if Kieran Tierney is passed fit. But his technical ability should allow him to combine with Mason Mount and Harry Kane through the middle, hopefully drawing opposition numbers his way. That will then free up space for Raheem Sterling to terrorise Scotland on the opposite flank. Right-back is a bit of a weak spot for Clarke, and Southgate will look to use speed on that side to get behind the Scottish backline.
2. How Scotland could line up
While England now seem to have a settled structure and starting XI, Clarke could make a host of changes to his side at Wembley. If Tierney is fit, he will absolutely start and Clarke admitted he was “hopeful” of having the Arsenal defender back for Friday night’s clash.
“I’m hopeful [Tierney will return]. I wouldn’t get over-excited about it, but I am hopeful,” he said after the Czech Republic defeat. “He’s been good and an integral part of how we’ve played recently.”
If Tierney plays, he will push down the left flank in support of Robertson, with the two working in tandem to pull England out of shape. If one goes outside, the other will underlap and vice versa. Grant Hanley and Jack Hendry will then shuffle across as a centre-back partnership, protected in front by Manchester United’s Scott McTominay, who will, of course, play a key role in helping Scotland get a foot on the ball.
Clarke could keep faith in Stephen O’Donnell on the right despite a poor performance against the Czech Republic, though James Forrest could be called in for his pace against Sterling.
John McGinn and Stuart Armstrong will be expected to push forward to provide a creative influence in the final third, supplying the ammunition for Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams, the latter of whom should start after giving Scotland a real boost from the bench last time out. Clarke will hope fielding a strike partnership can force one of England’s holding midfielders back into defence to give his own middle-men more time and space.
3. Can Kane prove he’s still untouchable for England?
After firing another blank against Croatia, Harry Kane extended his recent dry patch for England to just two goals in his last 10 caps. He hasn’t scored from open play at Wembley since netting a hat-trick as the Three Lions beat Montenegro 7-0 back in 2019 during qualification for this tournament.
More worrying was the anonymous nature of his performance against Zlatko Dalic’s side, with Kane touching the ball just 26 times, the fewest of any starting England player with only Ante Rebic (22) seeing the ball less among both XIs. To an extent this is pretty typical (both Rebic and Kane being centre-forwards), but Kane didn’t create a chance, nor did he manage a shot on target. He is often criticised for his habit of dropping too far away from the goal to get involved in play, but this is exactly what makes him so effective at club level for Spurs.
Despite winning the 2018 Golden Boot and finishing the 2020/21 season as the Premier League’s top goalscorer and assist provider, Kane must now accept a reduced role in Southgate’s side according to Jamie Carragher. And that’s also despite him wearing the captain’s armband.
“Two thoughts occurred to me as Gareth Southgate prepared to bring on Jude Bellingham in the 82nd minute of England’s encouraging opening win,” Carragher wrote in his Telegraph column. “The first was that he had to take off Harry Kane. The second was that it should have happened 10 minutes earlier.
“Kane barely featured in the victory and looked exhausted. Brave as it seems for an England manager to substitute his captain, it was the right and obvious call.
“This may become the new reality for Kane. England can get the most from him with a premeditated plan, demanding he give everything for 65-70 minutes before being replaced by fresh legs. The days of keeping him on the pitch so he can make the most of every minute in pursuit of the Golden Boot are over.
“Whatever approach Gareth Southgate takes – and whatever happens for the rest of the tournament – we must adjust to the fact that this is not the same Kane who went to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and fulfilled his ambition to be the leading goalscorer. More importantly, the England captain must accept that, too.”
But Kane has faced this sort of criticism throughout his career before and there are those who still don’t see him as among the world’s elite players, despite his numerous individual accolades. There is so much more to his game than goals and assists; it was his smart run that opened up the space for Phillips to drive forward before setting up Sterling for the winner against Croatia.
If anything, Carragher’s words might just inspire Kane to pull out a blockbuster performance on Sunday and who better to do that against than the ‘old enemy’? After all, it was Kane who broke Scottish hearts with a 93rd-minute equaliser during World Cup qualifying just four years ago.
Harry Kane anytime goalscorer is priced at 3/4 with William Hill.
4. Robertson to exploit Maguire absence?
Of the four right-backs Southgate initially called up to his England squad (including Trent Alexander-Arnold), Kieran Trippier was the only one nailed down as a rock-solid defender, and he’s ended up playing left-back. Whether because of pace, technical ability or a relentless desire to get forward, England’s other options in that position prefer to look up the pitch rather than down it.
This might well present an opportunity for Scotland’s best player against the Czech Republic to wreak some havoc and breach the English backline. That man is, of course, Andy Robertson.
The Liverpool left-back was a constant outlet for Clarke’s side on Monday, driving forward in possession and looking to get the ball into the box at every opportunity. In fact, it was arguably Robertson who came closest to scoring for Scotland, arriving at the back post and seeing his effort tipped just over the crossbar in the first half.
Even without Tierney, Robertson ensures the left flank will be Scotland’s main point of attack again on Friday. If Tierney does return, the duo will dovetail off each other in the final third, pulling England out of shape and creating space for dangerous crosses for the likes of Adams and Dykes.
Walker is experienced enough to know what he’ll be up against on Friday. After all, he’s faced Robertson enough times with Man City. But if Walker has one of his more cavalier evenings, that will leave space behind him for Scotland to exploit, and with England still compensating for the absence of Harry Maguire at centre-back, that could become a key battleground between the Three Lions and the Tartan Army.
5. Echoes of 96
While they lost 2-0, Scotland showed enough attacking endeavour against the Czech Republic to suggest they can at least threaten any side at this tournament. Equally, while England beat a tough Croatia side, the tempo of the 1-0 win made it clear they won’t be going for too many throats this summer. Rather, Southgate will be looking for possession dominance and game management.
If England are allowed too much time and space, they possess enough playmakers and wizardry to split open even the best defences the European Championships has to offer. Even if Scotland offer stubborn resistance, Foden has already shown his ability to conjure something from nothing, while Kane won’t stay as quiet as he did on Sunday for long. A repeat of the Euro 96 scoreline between these two sides feels on the cards.
England 2-0 Scotland is priced at 4/1 with William Hill.