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Preview: England vs. Estonia

Sports Mole previews Friday's Group E Euro 2016 qualifier between England and Estonia at Wembley.

England head into Friday's penultimate Euro 2016 qualifier with their ticket to the finals in France already in hand.

The Three Lions' fate may be secured, but their Group E opponents Estonia still have a chance of reaching the finals should they get a result on UK soil.


England manager Roy Hodgson offers a patter of applause during the game between Southampton and Everton on August 15, 2015© Getty Images

England fans have become all too familiar with disappointment when it comes to their nation on the international football stage, none more so when the Three Lions crashed out of last year's World Cup in Brazil before even getting out of the group.

Since then, England have gone on an impressive qualifying run for Euro 2016 and are the only team at this stage of the competition to have won all eight of their matches.

With respect to Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino, England were handed a relatively kind group and if Roy Hodgson's side did not qualify top, big questions would have been asked.

Wembley has been good to England over the last few years as the team have managed to stretch an unbeaten run to 18 qualifiers following 15 wins and three draws, and the stadium was also the setting for a record-breaking moment for captain Wayne Rooney.

The Manchester United striker became the nation's leading goalscorer when he hit his 50th, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton's record, during a 2-0 victory over Switzerland last month.

The 29-year-old is likely to have the chance of extending his goal tally against Estonia this week, and despite England already qualifying for next summer's finals, Hodgson will be determined to maintain their 100% record in the final two games, the last of which is away to Lithuania.

In total, England have scored an impressive 26 goals in eight qualifying matches, with their highest scores - a 5-0 win and a 6-0 triumph over minnows San Marino.

Hodgson's men have also been sturdy at the back having conceded just three goals in their qualifying campaign, all of which came against Slovenia, who are third in the group, 12 points adrift of England and three points behind second-placed Switzerland.

In the last 14 championships, England have failed to qualify four times, the most recent was in 2008, but the problem for the Three Lions has been progressing past the group phase - in the nine times that they have competed in this tournament, only on five occasions have they reached the knockout rounds, with their best finish at the semi-final stage in 1996.

Recent form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WDDWW


Wayne Rooney of England is pursued by Karol Mets of Estonia during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Estonia and England at A. Le Coq Arena on October 12, 2014© Getty Images

All is not yet lost for Estonia as they face a tense finish to their qualifying campaign with the aim of reaching the finals in France next summer.

Magnus Pehrsson's side have an outside chance of booking their ticket to Euro 2016 as they are currently fourth in the group, two points adrift of Slovenia, who reside in the playoff spot.

Estonia's final match is against Switzerland in Tallinn, so a result against England would give them a decent chance of keeping their tournament alive.

However, they have struggled on the road having failed to gain a single victory in their last seven competitive away fixtures, which have ended in six defeats and one draw.

Scoring has also been a problem for the Estonians having not managed to find the back the net in their last five outings away from home during the qualifying campaign.

Despite their away record being dismal, the team seemed to be on a positive run with two straight wins over San Marino and Lithuania on home turf, but they were dealt a blow when Robet Beric scored against them in what would turn out to be the only goal of the match in Slovenia.

It is a difficult ask, but qualifying for the finals would be historic for Estonia as they have fallen at this stage in the last five tournaments.

Recent form: LDLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): LDWWWL

Team News

Liverpool's Danny Ings reacts after Man Utd take the lead on September 12, 2015© Getty Images

Liverpool striker Danny Ings and Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli have been included in the senior England squad for the first time.

The former could appear at some stage, and while Hodgson stated last week that Rooney is not guaranteed a place, the country's leading goalscorer is likely to miss out, but due to injury.

Rooney's form at international level is a stark contrast to his club performances as he has so far struggled to make an impact at United this season, scoring just the one Premier League goal.

Theo Walcott has been playing in his preferred position as a striker for Arsenal, but due to his impressive form, he might be selected by Hodgson to act as support to Rooney.

With Luke Shaw out of action for the next six months or so after breaking his leg while playing for United, Ryan Bertrand is likely to be handed the left-back role for the match on Friday.

Following Michael Carrick's recent return to fitness, the United man could form a midfield including James Milner and Ross Barkley.

For Friday's visitors, Aleksandr Dmitrijev is available after serving a one-match suspension, while Sergei Zenjov, Ats Purje and Ken Kallaste could be used as a three-pronged attack.

England possible starting lineup:
Hart; Clyne, Cahill, Smalling, Bertrand; Milner, Carrick, Barkley; Sterling, Walcott, Kane

Estonia possible starting lineup:
Aksalu; Teniste, Jaager, Klavan, Pikk; Konoplyanka, Mets, Vassiljev; Zanjov, Purje, Kallaste

Head To Head

These two sides have met just the three times, with England winning all of them and Estonia failing to score a goal in any.

Rooney has had plenty of joy against Estonia in the past having scored in the two nations' European qualifier in 2007, which ended in a 3-0 triumph for the Three Lions.

The United striker also scored the winner from a set piece on his 99th appearance for England in their 1-0 victory on away soil last October.

In the same game, Estonia's Ragnar Klavan also earned his 99th international cap, but it ended in disappointment as he was sent off.

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We say: England 2-0 Estonia

England may have already qualified, but their desire to finish the campaign with a 100% record and the fact that they will be playing at Wembley suggests that they will be determined to get a result on Friday. The form books are firmly in the Three Lions' favour, and while Estonia still have a chance of reaching the finals, perhaps via the playoffs, England are expected to have too much quality to drop points.

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Wayne Rooney of England celebrates after scoring the opening goal from a free kick during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Estonia and England at A. Le Coq Arena on October 12, 2014
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