MX23RW : Wednesday, June 16 21:21:40| >> :600:822925:822925:
Mar 28, 2021 at 5pm UK at Air Albania Stadium
AlbaniaAlbania
0-2
EnglandEngland

Bare (22'), Hysaj (79'), Gjasula (89')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Kane (39'), Mount (63')
Walker (69'), Kane (73')

Preview: Albania vs. England - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Albania and England, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Albania and England will be aiming to maintain their perfect starts to World Cup Qualifying when they do battle at the Arena Kombetare on matchday two in Group I this Sunday.

The hosts edged past Andorra 1-0 in their inaugural game, whereas England simply cruised past minnows San Marino 5-0, although it could and should have been more.


Match preview

Albania manager Edoardo Reja pictured on November 15, 2020© Reuters

Not since August 2010 have Albania amassed a quartet of consecutive victories, but Ermir Lenjani's 41st-minute winner against Andorra ensured that they would pick up where they left off in 2020 with a hard-fought victory in their opening game of World Cup Qualifying.

Edoardo Reja has seen it all at the age of 75, but one thing the former Napoli manager is yet to witness is Albania winning five games in a row across all competitions, and a shock victory against the Three Lions would mark the first time in Albania's footballing history that they have triumphed five times on the bounce.

This week's hosts are also unbeaten in six since losing to Lithuania in the Nations League last September, and after Hungary and Poland took a point apiece from their six-goal thriller in midweek, Albania find themselves second in Group I before the real tests begins for Reja's crop.

After defeating Macedonia and Liechtenstein in their first two games of qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Albania could also win both of their opening matches in the preliminary rounds for just the second time ever, although they are still waiting for that elusive first appearance in the showpiece event.

While the hosts have marched to victory in their last three home matches - scoring at least two goals each time - their defence has also been breached on each occasion during that run, so a well-rested Harry Kane and his fired up teammates will have a glint in their eyes as they gear up for the long journey to Tirana.

England manager Gareth Southgate pictured on March 25, 2021© Reuters

England have never failed to put five past San Marino and were not about to let that record slip on Thursday, as Gareth Southgate's youngsters produced a five-star performance in a game that was already a foregone conclusion from the first whistle.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (2), Raheem Sterling, James Ward-Prowse and the debutant Ollie Watkins all breached the minnows' defence at Wembley in a comprehensive victory for the Three Lions, and had it not been for an inspired showing from San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini, the defeat could have been all the more humiliating for the world's worst-ranked side.

England's crushing victory saw them rise to the summit after one game and that is exactly where their fans will expect them to be after nine more, but Southgate's men cannot rest on their laurels before next week's crunch match with Poland, as keeping Robert Lewandowski quiet is difficult for even the most staunch rearguards.

For now, though, the Three Lions will simply be focused on winning and keeping a clean sheet for the third consecutive match, and history is on their side too, as they have not lost a World Cup Qualifying game away from home since Ukraine beat them in October 2009 - winning five and drawing five on rival turf since then.

England and Albania have met four times down the years, with the former coming up trumps on all of those occasions, and the Three Lions' most recent visit to Albania on March 28th 2001 saw Andy Cole, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes score in a 3-1 triumph.

Albania World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W

Albania form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

England World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • W

England form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W


Team News

Harry Kane in action for Spurs on March 14, 2021© Reuters

Empoli starlet Nedim Bajrami would have been hopeful of earning his first cap for the national team against Andorra, but a problem with documentation means that the playmaker is not eligible.

Etrit Berisha was given the nod in goal over Lazio's Thomas Strakosha against Andorra and should keep his place after a clean sheet, with Serie A duo Berat Djimsiti and Marash Kumbulla in for a taxing evening in the rearguard.

Qazim Laci replaced the veteran Ledia Memushaj off the bench in midweek and will be pushing for inclusion here, but Reja will likely save most of his changes for their trip to San Marino next week.

England lost Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Kyle Walker to injury before the visit of San Marino, and the latter remains a doubt for this game while Saka and Rashford have both been ruled out.

Nick Pope kept his fifth clean sheet in five appearances for England in midweek and should feature in between the sticks once more, while Reece James and John Stones should reprise their roles in defence after being taken off at half time on Thursday.

The duo could be joined by two fresh faces in Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, while Declan Rice is expected to replace Kalvin Phillips in the middle, but Jude Bellingham's impressive cameo in midweek is unlikely to see him rewarded with a start.

Harry Kane was given a complete rest in midweek and should therefore replace Calvert-Lewin up top, while a frustrated Jesse Lingard will hope to be given another opportunity to find the back of the net, but he is under pressure from Phil Foden.

Albania possible starting lineup:
Berisha; Kumbulla, Djimsiti, Ismajli; Hysaj, Bare, Gjasula, Lenjani; Laci; Cikalleshi, Roshi

England possible starting lineup:
Pope; James, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Mount, Ward-Prowse; Lingard, Kane, Sterling


SM words green background

We say: Albania 0-2 England

Albania are not just here to make up the numbers - the grit and determination they showed to get over the line against Andorra means that they command respect from their visitors this weekend. However, most of Southgate's big-hitters will be well-rested and should have no trouble breaching Reja's defence, so we can only back a second triumph for the Three Lions.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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England manager Gareth Southgate pictured on March 25, 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
3Liverpool38209968422669
4Chelsea381910958362267
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
8Arsenal381871355391661
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
10Everton38178134748-159
11Aston Villa38167155546955
12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
15Southampton38127194768-2143
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
17Burnley38109193355-2239
RFulham38513202753-2628
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38511223576-4126
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323

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