England face a crucial trip to Malta on Friday night, with Gareth Southgate’s men just two points clear at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group F.
Things didn’t go to plan for the usual guard in the Three Lions’ last qualifier, with a 93rd-minute Harry Kane equaliser needed to rescue a point away to Scotland.
The solution? We think it lies in giving the following hungry, talented trio of England fringe players a starting place at Ta’Qali Stadium this weekend.
Jack Butland (Stoke City; 5 Caps / 0 Goals)
While first-choice stopper Joe Hart has endured an error-strewn start to life at West Ham United, Butland has been in fine form for the Potters, with a stunning individual display to keep out Arsenal in the club’s recent 1-0 victory.
In truth, it’s part of a wider trend. Hart’s star is fading, while 24-year-old Butland’s is on the rise. However, a mixture of injuries and omissions have limited the Stoke stopper to just one competitive appearance for England.
That’s something Southgate should rectify on Friday night. Butland is the in-form stopper with a bright future ahead of him, but that’s not the only reason why we’d choose him.
A game against relative minnows Malta would offer him experience of a vital WCQ match without throwing him in at the deep end against top-class opposition.
Michael Keane (Everton; 2 Caps / 0 Goals)
Ronald Koeman’s Everton side have responded to a tough fixture list in some style, earning a Europa League Group Stage spot, and taking four points from three tough league outings – including a draw away to Manchester City.
That’s largely been down to an outstanding defensive record, with new signing Michael Keane instrumental in a backline which has conceded just four goals in seven games.
The 24-year-old has slotted in instantly at Goodison Park, with his classy passing, aerial threat and ability to grab a crucial goal already evident on Merseyside.
Having impressed on his two prior England displays, before being shelved for the past couple of games, now seems the ideal time to bring him back into the side. Especially so with the player enjoying some of the best club form of his career.
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United; 4 Caps / 0 Goals)
For a player who’s scored in an FA Cup Final, an EFL Cup Final, and been one of Manchester United’s most creative players in the past two seasons, we’re honestly surprised that Lingard only has a quartet of senior England caps to his name.
While he’s not had a huge amount of game time for the Red Devils so far this term, the man from Warrington has taken his chance when it’s come. On as a sub against Leicester City last weekend, Lingard made a near-instant impact, with Marouane Fellaini flicking home his fierce cross-cum-shot.
Possessing lightning pace, fine footwork and a fierce strike, the United ace would be ideal for a game where England are likely to dominate possession and chances, and tire out a defence made up largely of semi-pro players.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing