ENGLAND will be hoping for a goal-filled and morale-boosting win when minnows San Marino visit Wembley on Thursday evening (KO 19:45).
Despite missing several regular squad members, the depleted Three Lions are expected to record a routine victory in their second Group E qualifier for Euro 2016 against a team who sit joint-bottom of Fifa’s world rankings in 207th place.
Two goals from Danny Welbeck gave Roy Hodgson’s side a perfect start with a 2-0 triumph over Switzerland last month, in what is expected to be their most difficult contest of the campaign.
England have positive memories of when they last crossed paths with San Marino having thumped 13 goals without reply past them in two matches during qualification for the 2014 World Cup.
Following an 8-0 thrashing on the road, in what was England’s biggest triumph since 1987, the Three Lions took 35 minutes to break down the South European outfit at the national stadium before running out 5-0 winners with Welbeck again on target twice and Wayne Rooney helping himself to a brace.
The resounding results were an accurate reflection of the gulf in class between the sides as England breezed past a lowly part-time team largely built up of teachers, painters and decorators and construction workers.
A similar outcome against the whipping boys would be a welcome tonic for Hodgson prior to Sunday’s early-evening trip to Estonia, who face Lithuania on Thursday while Switzerland travel to Slovenia in the other group match.
San Marino, the oldest independent country in Europe, have lost their last 59 internationals stretching back to 2004 and have never qualified for a major tournament but one of their 20 goals came against England just nine seconds into a 7-1 defeat in 1993.
The Three Lions will be desperate to capitalise on the woeful record and increase their healthy goal difference in one of the biggest mis-matches in sporting history.
After the disappointing 40,000 turnout for last month’s friendly against Norway, England’s first home Euro qualifier is set to attract 50,000 supporters according to ticket sales figures.
My Match Prediction: England 6-0 San Marino
The Three Lions trounced San Marino – one of the weakest footballing nations in world football – both home and away during their World Cup qualification campaign and will be expected to do so again. With morale high after a crucial win in Basel last month, another high-quality performance will bode confidence that this qualification campaign can be the proverbial ‘walk in the park’. The abacus should be required for this one and England, once up and running, will open the floodgates to a resounding win. Influential players are missing but any team that Hodgson fields will be too strong for the minnows.
England boss Roy Hodgson is facing a defensive crisis with potentially only five defenders fit for Thursday’s game.
Arsenal defender Calum Chambers was promoted from the England Under-21s squad on Monday after Everton’s John Stones suffered ankle ligament damage in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester United.
Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are already absent while Luke Shaw has reported to Gareth Southgate’s Under-21s team despite sustaining a knee injury for United at the weekend.
But Southampton full-back Nathaniel Clyne, who is set to make his senior international debut, and recalled Arsenal full-back Kieran Gibbs will be available.
Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could make his first England appearance since the aforementioned 5-0 win over San Marino in October 2012 but Aston Villa’s Fabien Delph sat out of training at St George’s Park on Tuesday.
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge remains sidelined with the thigh injury sustained on international duty in September so club team-mate Rickie Lambert could be involved.
England: Forster (GK), Foster (GK), Hart (GK), Clyne, Jagielka, Cahill, Chambers, Baines, Gibbs, Delph, Henderson, Lallana, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shelvey, Sterling, Townsend, Wilshere, Lambert, Rooney (C), Welbeck.
San Marino: Simoncini (GK), Benedettini (GK), Muraccini (GK), Della Valle, Valentini, Vitaoli, Palazzi, Buscarini, Battisini, Brolli, Cesarini, Alex Gasperoni, Cervellini, Mazza, Chiaruzzi, Lorenzo Gasperoni, Tosi, Golinucci, Selva (C), Rinaldi, Hirsch, Stefanelli.
Referee: Marcin Borski (Poland)
Assistant referees: Rafal Rostkowski and Marcin Boniek
Additional assistants: Bartosz Frankowski and Tomasz Waijda
Fourth official: Krzysztof Myrmus