The 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier action continues this evening, with three home nations’ teams in action. So how significant are tonight’s England v Scotland and Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan ties
England v Scotland – A Battle for Points and National Pride
The England v Scotland World Cup qualifier kicks off at 19.45 at Wembley Stadium. This will be the first time that the old rivals have met since November 2014, when the Three Lions beat the Scots by 3 – 1 in a friendly at Glasgow’s Celtic Park.
Having beaten Slovakia (1 – 0) in September, then defeated Malta (2 – 0) and drawn with Slovenia (0 – 0) last month, England are sitting pretty at the top of the Group F table with seven points, two points ahead of their nearest rivals, Lithuania and Slovenia.
Beating the Scots would help them to get one step closer to the finals, which are due to take place in Russia between 14 June and 15 July 2018. It would also boost their confidence, in a year that’s seen criticism from fans following the team’s poor Euro 2016 performance and the departure of their last manager, Sam Allardyce, after just one game.
The Three Lions, captained by Wayne Rooney, will certainly be the favourites for the win, despite concerns being raised over the fitness of Harry Kane, who has only just returned to play for Tottenham after an ankle injury which kept him out of action for seven weeks.
Scotland’s manager, Gordon Strachan, has had some squad selection dilemmas to contend with too, with left backs Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson having been ruled out due to injuries. Midfielder Robert Snodgrass, however, who suffered an ankle injury recently, has been declared fit to play.
The Scots know that winning this tie is a must if they want to keep their dreams of winning the famous football trophy alive. They’re currently lying in fourth on the table, after their initial 5 – 1 win against Malta was followed by a 1 – 1 draw with Lithuania and a 3 – 0 defeat by Slovakia. So can they defeat the Three Lions on English soil? Anything can happen when the World Cup’s at stake.
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan – Can the Irish Maintain Their Form at Home?
Northern Ireland’s campaign to make it into the tournament finals continues tonight too, with their match against Azerbaijan kicking off at the same time. There’s plenty to play for in this Group C tie too – if Michael O’Neill’s men are victorious, they’ll rise above their opponents in the table and slot into second place behind the Germans.
The match is taking place at Belfast’s Windsor Park Stadium, so Northern Ireland will have the home advantage, and they’ve won or drawn the last nine games they’ve played in the city too. Midfielder, Chris Brunt, told the BBC:
“We have not lost at home for a long time and it is important we keep that going if we want to get anywhere in this group.”
Beating Azerbaijan will not be an easy task, however. Two of the teams’ four former meetings have ended in draws, with each nation winning one tie. What’s more, Azerbaijan has yet to concede a goal in the qualifiers.
“They are in the mix with ourselves, the Czech Republic and Norway in terms of fighting for the top two positions with Germany,” O’Neill told the BBC.
Are you planning to watch England v Scotland or Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan tonight? Which teams do you think will win? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment.