Three Lions advance on Estonia after smashing San Marino
England hit the road once more, following their 5-0 thrashing of San Marino, but the next stop on their route to the France finals of Euro 2016 promises to be tougher than their last test.
The Three Lions camp now face Estonia, who they encountered twice before on their ultimately ill-fated quest to qualify for Euro 2008. England fans will be hoping that this sense of deja vu is not a bad omen, with the Blue Shirts at 10/1 to defeat Roy Hodgson’s men and spoil the post-San Marino party.
Visitors England can expect a hostile welcome, but should feel confident, having beaten Estonia 3-0 on both of their previous meetings. Hodgson’s side are odds-on favourites at 2/9 to conquer the Baltic boys once more, and Coral are also offering an enticing matchday special, with the Three Lions available at 5/2 (maximum stake £20) to win by three goals or more.
Wayne Rooney will lead the line once more and, after netting against Estonia back in 2007, is 5/2 to inch closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal record by bagging a brace or better. Strike partner Danny Welbeck is also 3/1 to score last after hitting home three times in his last two England outings.
Hodgson is expected to persevere with the diamond formation, so Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling should start again despite being substituted at half time against San Marino.
Jack Wilshere enjoyed playing further forward last time out, but will likely return to his deeper role against the Blue Shirts, leaving just the spot on the left flank up for grabs. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and James Milner have all put in claims for a starting berth, but Fabian Delph should earn his third cap after an impressive debut against Switzerland.
Phil Jagielka (28/1 to score first again) struck lucky with his opening goal against San Marino, and is also likely to keep his place in the heart of defence alongside Gary Cahill.
Hosts Estonia, meanwhile, boast a formidable home record, having lost just twice in their last 10 games in Tallinn. The Blue Shirts will be hungry for victory on their own turf, and need to win after slumping to a 1-0 defeat by Slovenia last time out.
Swedish coach Magnus Pehrsson has seen his side score just three times in their previous seven clashes, making England and Joe Hart odds-on at 8/13 to keep a clean sheet.
Some of the Baltic team’s biggest threat will come from Blackpool new star Sergei Zenjov (5/1 to score anytime), who has netted seven times in 35 caps, and 29-year-old forward Ats Purj (14/1 to net last), who bagged Estonia’s last competitive goal, against Slovenia.
If Pehrsson can propel Estonia to victory and put their qualifying campaign back on track by claiming England’s scalp, the Blue Shirts boss could be the first to take the nation to a European Championship finals.
With the potential to make sporting history in the hosts’ hands, Hodgson’s Three Lions will have to be careful not to be complacent following their easy win at Wembley. Otherwise, the visitors could once again be in for a rude awakening.