England have already qualified for next Summer’s FIFA World Cup Finals with a game to spare and therefore their trip to Vilinus to face Lithuania this evening takes on the mantle of a dead rubber as tonight’s hosts have long since been knocked out of the qualification process.
Watching the national team has been a chore as of late and that was no more apparent than on Thursday night when The Three Lions laboured to a win over Slovenia at Wembley. It needed a 94th minute winner from Harry Kane to finally break the deadlock and give England the win required to book their place to Russia next Summer.
So with qualification already in the bag the hope will be that any pressure that may be on the shoulders of the players picked this evening will be alleviated and England can offer up a much more fluid performance than the one earlier in the week.
The fact that top spot in the group has already been booked also means that Gareth Southgate can afford to make personnel changes in regards to his starting eleven and one of those changes will come in the form of the man between the sticks,
Joe Hart was arguably one of the better players on show on Thursday but there have been question marks over his club form with West Ham and subsequently whether or not he should be starting for the international team. Some have felt that it should be Jack Butland who starts and tonight they will get their wish as the Stoke keeper has ben given the nod.
One player who missed out on Thursday night was Dele Alli after he had to sit out the tie with Slovenia due to suspension after his middle finger gesture against Slovakia earned him a one match ban. He will likely slot back into the number 10 position after Raheem Sterling started there in England’s last outing.
Sterling has been in impressive form for Manchester City this season when called upon but unfortunately the number 10 experiment did not quite work for him and he was more effective when played out wide later on as England went to a two up front.
Therefore Alli will likely be given the nod to resume his partnership with Harry Kane who started October as he finished September with another goal to his name. The hope will be that this rich vein of form continues against a Lithuania side that lost 2-0 at Wembley back in March of this year.
As to how many other changes Southgate makes well your guess is as good as mine, he could use the fixture as a chance to try and build something resembling a cohesive first eleven, something that England still look short of being.
Or he could use this game as an opportunity to ring the changes. Then again he does have two ideal chances in which to do that in the way of friendlies against Brazil and Germany next month, so maybe the experimenting will be better left until then.
England by rights should win this but with the tickets booked for Russia already you do have to wonder whether or not they can get themselves up for this one. That said they will want to end the campaign on a high and that high is in the form of all three points.