England v Republic of Ireland: You snooze but don't lose

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate is likely to give squad players a chance against Ireland

Defensively-solid Ireland can make things difficult for England in Thursday night's international friendly at Wembley, says Andy Schooler...

"Eighteen of Ireland’s last 20 games have landed the under 2.5 goals bet. England’s numbers aren’t anything like that but this season, when they’ve largely failed to hit their straps, they’ve gone under the line in three of five."

Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.26/5

England v Republic of Ireland
Thursday 12 November, 20:00
Live on ITV

Ah, the friendless friendly is back in our midst.

But wait. These sorts of games have the pressure off, right? Time for a carefree attitude and some end-to-end excitement.

Well, maybe.

Unconvincing England

Then again, take a look at how these sides have performed so far in this strange season.

England - 1.351/3 to win - have looked a far cry from the side who brushed their Euro 2020 qualifying opposition aside, scoring goals aplenty.

There's a fairly obvious explanation for that. One of the main reasons the ongoing Nations League was created was so teams of a similar ability could face each other regularly.

The bad news for fans of England, who remain joint favourites at 6.611/2 to win Euro 2020, 2021 or whatever you want to call it, is that they failed to stamp their authority of these higher-quality games.

They should certainly receive credit for last month's win over the world's top-ranked side, Belgium, but they've also failed to score in two games against Denmark and struggled to see off a weakened Iceland side, who would have earned a draw had they not missed an injury-time penalty.

At least players now should be up to speed given they've got plenty of games under their belts - that Iceland game came before the Premier League season had even begun.

That said, Gareth Southgate still faces something of a juggling act in terms of selection given he has this game plus must-win Nations League matches with Belgium and Iceland in the space of a week.

Since his initial squad announcement, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Ward-Prowse have joined Danny Ings and Kalvin Phillips on the injured list.

Marcus Rashford will also miss this match having been allowed to stay at Manchester United a few extra days to nurse a knee problem.

However, Raheem Sterling is back having missed last month's matches, while there will be much interest in new call-up Jude Bellingham, who could become the third youngest England player in history in this contest.

With those competitive games looming, Southgate is unlikely to field anything like his strongest available team here. That was certainly the case in a similar scenario last month.

He admitted last week that "managing the three games is a challenge" and spoke of how this friendly would be "an opportunity to look at players".

That could be good news for Bellingham but more likely Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jack Grealish, both of whom impressed against Wales last month.

At the back, Reece James is set to start on the right despite being suspended for the two Nations League games to follow. If would not be a surprise to see Conor Coady and Bukayo Saka get further chances either.

Ireland give little away

Ireland (10.519/2) head to Wembley unbeaten in their last seven meetings with England, although is hard to argue there was been a weaker pool of players representing the country during that run which dates back to Euro 88.

They've been weakened further since last month by David McGoldrick's international retirement, while his Sheffield United team-mate Enda Stevens is out due to a knee injury. Both have been replaced by Championship players in the shape of James Collins and Cyrus Christie.

At least Seamus Coleman is fit again and he'll add to a defence which boss Stephen Kenny labelled "excellent" a few days ago when looking back at last month's internationals, saying they had conceded just four chances across three games.

Stephen Kenny Ireland manager 1280.jpg

Statisticians may argue with Kenny's data but his point is certainly a fair one to make - Ireland have been solid at the back but further forward they've lacked the quality to finish opportunities created.

The new manager was certainly looking for positives after Ireland failed to score a goal in those matches, bowing out of Euro 2020 qualifying on penalties in Slovakia, before drawing with Wales and losing in Finland. Subsequently they now face a battle to avoid relegation to the third tier of the Nations League, starting in Wales on Sunday.

Therefore Kenny is also likely to make changes to his side, although his options are limited when compared to Southgate's.

Goals in short supply

It is that lack of goals, both for and against, which points towards the best bet for this game.

Eighteen of Ireland's last 20 games have landed the under 2.5 goals bet.

England's numbers aren't anything like that but this season, when they've largely failed to hit their straps, they've gone under the line in three of five.

With Ireland up against historical rivals and doubtless determined to continue that strong record against England, expect them to be fired up and ready to contest every ball.

That "excellent" defence is full of Premier League quality - as well as Coleman, there's Matt Doherty, Kevin Long, John Egan, Dara O'Shea and Shane Duffy to choose from - and whoever starts looks likely to be facing a second-string England attack, possibly led by Calvert-Lewin.

For those seeking a bigger price, Calvert-Lewin to score first at 13/5 should be considered - he scored the opener when England's strength in depth did for Wales last month - but the under 2.5 goals bet at 2.26/5 looks the route to profit.

England should have enough to break through at some point and claim the win but with even a win to nil just 2.166/5, they look short enough.

Opta fact

England are winless in seven matches against the Republic of Ireland (D5 L2), their joint-worst current winless run against an opponent, with the Three Lions also seven without a win against Romania.

Click here for more tips and previews of this week's internationals

Andy Schooler's P/L 2020/21

Staked: 29.5pts
Returned: 25.16pts
P/L: -4.34pts

New on Betting.Betfair – Betslip

You can now bet without leaving Betting.Betfair with our brand new on-site betslip for Exchange markets. You'll see the Exchange back and lay prices at the end of articles - simply login and place your bets as you would do on the main Exchange site.

New customers can get £20 in Free Bets!

New customers who sign up here, can earn up to £20 in free bets when they place a £5 wager. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.

Discover the latest articles