After a routine start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, Jake Pearson preview's England's trip to Albania, picking out two best bets.
England travel to Albania in search of a second-consecutive World Cup qualifying victory following their 5-0 win over San Marino, for a game that was in doubt earlier in this week.
The Albanian Football Association (AFA) said it had been told by local police that the force could not guarantee the safety of the teams, but the Albania State Police has since assured that they will guarantee public order and safety for the game in Tirana.
Albania opened their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Andorra, extending their winning run to four matches and remaining unbeaten in their last six.
They will not be the pushovers that San Marino were, putting up a decent enough showing in a tough Euro 2020 qualifying group (finishing fourth), before going on to win their Nations League group.
Managed by Italian Edoardo Reja, who has previously coached some of Serie A’s most notable teams, Albania now set up with five at the back, and are a tough nut to crack, conceding just five goals in their last eight matches.
England were impressive against San Marino, for all that the Sammarinese offered little push back, but they will face a very different task in breaking down a well-drilled Albania side.
With Albania playing five at the back, it will be interesting to see if Gareth Southgate opts to match up the home side in that respect, with 3-4-3 still very much at the forefront of the England manager’s mind approaching a major tournament.
Either way, we are likely to see the return to the starting XI of Harry Kane, and with the plethora of attacking options that Southgate has at his disposal, despite the formation, England are likely to set up camp deep in Albania territory.
England were afforded a lot of space against San Marino, with the likes of Mason Mount and Jesse Lingard in particular picking up some lovely pockets between the Sammarinese midfield and defence, but Albania will be desperate to plug any such gaps that appear in the Arena Kombetare, making life much more difficult for the England attacking line.
Clearly England are heavily fancied to win this match, and with good reason, but these sorts of matches, as we saw against San Marino, rarely end in the shellacking that the outright price suggests they might, which makes the Unders markets in the goal betting the place to look for a bet.
Albania are not the most prolific scorers, and games involving Reja’s side rarely see a lot of goals, with Over 2.5 goals landing in just 50% of their Euro 2020 qualifiers, and in just 33% of their Nations League matches.
England’s true price of winning this match is roughly 2/5, while the price for Under 2.5 goals is 10/11 (margin removed), those two multiplied comes out at around 6/4, which means the 21/10 on offer for ENGLAND TO WIN AND UNDER 2.5 GOALS represents value, if you expect an England victory, which we do.
England do have an awful lot of attacking talent however, so a saver is recommended on ENGLAND TO WIN AND UNDER 3.5 GOALS at 10/11, with the true price calculated at around 5/6 – an expected value (EV) (essentially, the amount we can expect to win or lose were the bet placed many times over) of just over +3.6%.
Score prediction: Albania 0-2 England (Sky Bet odds: 9/1)
Odds correct 1200 GMT (26/03/21)
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