England 1.60 The Draw 3.65 Belgium 6.00
Roy Hodgson’s tenure as England manager began with a narrow-but-deserved victory over Norway in Oslo last weekend. This Saturday he takes charge at Wembley for the first time in front of an expectant and demanding home crowd as they look for the perfect send off ahead of Euro 2012.
Expect numerous changes from the starting XI that were picked in Roy Hodgson’s very first England line-up. John Terry, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole all come into contention having joined up with the squad in midweek, but fellow Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard is unavailable due to an as-yet undiagnosed thigh injury. Wayne Rooney is also expected to feature despite being unavailable for the opening two matches of Euro 2012 due to suspension. Gareth Barry and John Ruddy have left the squad since last weekend after picking up injuries that ruled them out of the championships.
Belgium are likely to field a host of Premier League stars including Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet, Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, Everton’s Marouaune Fellaini and Fulham’s Moussa Dembele. Incoming Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard is the centre pin around whom the Belgian’s operate, while the likes of Axel Witsel and Steven Defour strengthen the backbone of the team.
Whilst England went into last weekend’s match against Norway having failed to beat their opponents in 32 years, they go into this game with a much healthier record. The Three Lions are unbeaten in regular time in 10 meetings – six wins and four draws – with Belgium since the Second World War. England are a short 1.18 in the Draw No Bet market and 1.60 in the Match Odds market.
In the aforementioned 10 matches England have scored 27 goals and Belgium 12, with an average of 3.9 goals scored per game. Over 2.5 goals is a 1.85 shot this weekend, while Over 3.5 is priced at 3.05.
Ashley Young has scored 50% of England’s goals in their last six matches, netting four times. The Manchester United winger is a 3.50 chance to score this weekend and 1.25 not to.
England have won four of their last six games by a 1-0 scoreline and can be backed at odds of 7.00 to make that five from seven here. Although it should also be considered that they have won only three of their last eight matches at Wembley.
International mangers often roll out the cliché that the performance is more important than the result in friendlies. And I expect that thought process to be at the very forefront of Hodgson’s mind going into this game.
Given the extremely limited amount of time that he has had to work with this group of players the emphasis will be placed heavily on experimentation. Hodgson needs to know what options he has to hand ahead of the Three Lions’ opener against France in nine days time, and to do that he needs to use this match, as he did the Norway game, to experiment.
For that reason it would be foolish to back England at such short odds of 1.60. Although Belgium did not qualify for Euro 2012 they are very much an improving side and look to be taking giant steps towards becoming an extremely good team. The draw at odds of 3.65 and Belgium in the Draw No Bet market at 4.35 both look like good bets.
Did You Know?
Goal-line technology will be trialled at Wembley in this Saturday’s game. A group of technical specialist and Fifa representatives will analyse the data during the game, but it will not be used to influence any on-field decisions made by the match referee.
PREDICTION: England 2-2 Belgium
BEST BET: The Draw @ 3.65