The State of Play
On the face of it there is little to play for: England have already qualified for the finals of Euro 2024 next summer while, realistically, that was never a prospect for Malta.
But Gareth Southgate’s men will be targeting the maximum six points from Friday’s clash at Wembley as well as Monday’s game in North Macedonia. The reason is the top seeds for Germany have yet to be determined with England still fighting it out to be one of the five alongside the tournament hosts.
Successive wins will be enough, potentially making it a difficult evening for a Malta side that have yet to pick up a point from their seven qualifying games in a group that also contains Italy and Ukraine.
Michele Marcolini’s men will be backed by around 1,500 fans at a sold-out Wembley and will hope to do better than the 4-0 defeat they suffered in the reverse fixture in June.
England have suffered several withdrawals with Jude Bellingham, Levi Colwill, James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Lewis Dunk all pulling out of the squad first named by Southgate. Cole Palmer, Ezri Konsa and Rico Lewis were called-up and it is thought several fringe players will get the chance to impress over the weekend but most likely from the bench. First-choice central defender John Stones is missing, as are left-backs Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell.
Malta can include newly nationalised striker Kemar Reid but Marcolini has a much smaller pool to choose from so changes to the side that lost their last game, 3-1 at home to Ukraine last month, will be minimal.
England: Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Guehi, Trippier, Alexander-Arnold, Rice, Gallagher, Saka, Rashford, Kane
Malta: Bonello, J Mbong, S Borg, Pepe, J Borg, Camenzuli, Muscat, Guillaumier, Yankam, Reid, P Mbong
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What They Said
Chelsea midfielder Cole Palmer on his call-up to the squad
“I’m going to try to make the biggest impact possible, by creating chances and hopefully scoring.
“I’m new so I will speak to as many people as I can. I will try to get settled quickly. I already know the City boys – Walks [Kyle Walker], Jack [Grealish], Phil [Foden].
“I’ve played with Rico [Lewis] for ages. After the game [against City] he asked me if I’d got the same message. We were both happy to be going to the first camp together.
“If you have a friend there, it’s always a bit nicer. So we’re both buzzing.”
Malta striker Kemar Reid told the Times of Malta of his excitement at the prospect of playing at Wembley
“I am really excited at the prospect. My family knows well that I have been an England supporter since I was a kid and to be given this opportunity to play against this top team at the highest level is something I am really excited about. I have always dreamed of playing at the highest level and for me will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
“I am really looking forward to seeing the Maltese fans at Wembley Stadium.
“I believe they should come and push the team in such a difficult match. The team has worked hard to prepare for the match in the best possible way.
“We know that we are playing against top quality side but we are raring to go and try and get the best possible performance and result.”
How to Watch
The game will be screened live on Channel 4 with kick off at 7.45pm (UK time).
Whatever team Southgate puts out, it ought to be too strong for Malta. It would be a major surprise if England don’t rack up a few goals as well as they seek that all-important top seeding.