England continue their European Championship qualification campaign against Lithuania on Friday and look to extend their lead at the top of Group E.
With another friendly game against Italy on Tuesday 31st March, manager Roy Hodgson will be looking for progress form a young squad with several debutants called up. Without doubt the most exciting of these is Tottenham Hotspur starlet Harry Kane. The 21 year old who has cemented his place in the Spurs line up this season, having scored 29 goals in all competitions including 11 in his last eight Premier League appearances. The only real talking point is whether Kane will start the game, or will he be brought on as a substitute. Ex-England international Alan Shearer has led the calls for him to start, which have gathered momentum after Daniel Sturridge was ruled out with injury.
Adam Lallana has also been forced out of the squad and has been replaced by another Spurs youngster, Ryan Mason. The 23 year old midfielder has been rewarded for his combative performances in the Premier league with his first involvement with the senior squad. He has made a total of 28 appearances for his club, scoring twice. However, unlike his club colleague Kane, it is far from certain that Mason will actually play.
Lithuania have never qualified for a European Championship tournament and are still alive in Group E. A win against England will boost their chances of making it to France in 2016.
Manager Roy Hodgson prefers a 4-4-2 diamond formation and has used it ever since the ill fated World Cup campaign in Brazil. In the last six games it has been used, England have scored 15 goals and conceded only twice. Of course, these games have been played against inferior opposition, but the fact remains that the tactic allows the team to attack with confidence. Wayne Rooney, who is more of a utility man for Manchester United, is allowed to drop deep into midfield to look for the ball, which creates space for the attacking midfielder behind him. If this is Raheem Sterling, his raw pace can terrorise defenders. On the flip side, the holding midfielder who is normally Jack Wilshere can be employed to break up the play and sit in front of the back four. It is a position that is becoming more and more important in modern football. Fans want to see players beating their man with skill and pace, but in order to offset that attacking player, a defensively minded player has to play. Another player who could play is Jordan Henderson, who averages 2.4 tackles per game in the Premiership and is known for his solid defensive work, as well as Michael Carrick who has a pass completion rate of 89%. Wingers Andros Townsend and Theo Walcott, if he plays, will be responsible for providing the width, using their pace on the flanks to press Lithuania back.
Lithuania have mixed their formations up, employing 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 systems in previous games. It would be fair to say that they will have to play a defensive, solid system against England. They will have to pack the midfield in order to stifle England and frustrate them and hope to grab a goal on the counter attack, something which England seem susceptible to. In their last six games, Lithuania have won two, lost two and drawn two. They have scored four goals and conceded seven. Despite this form, they find themselves joint second in Group E with six points. They will be hoping for any sort of positive result to keep their hopes alive.
It is hard to look past Wayne Rooney, who is closing in on becoming the all time leading goalscorer for his country. The centre forward has played 101 times for his county and has scored 46 times. At only 29 years old, he will be looking to break that record and write himself into the history books. Rooney is at his best when he is angry, but has learnt to curb that nasty streak which was so prevelant in his early career. For his club, he has scored 13 goals from 29 appearances this season
For Lithuania, goalkeeper Gierdrius Arlauskis will be up against the odds, facing a formidable English attack. The goalkeeper has 19 caps for his national side and has played in the Champions League. If he can play well and frustrate England, Lithuania a may be in with a chance to get a result.