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Jack Butland to replace Joe Hart for Lithuania clash, confirms Gareth Southgate

07 October 2017

England are trying to enjoy the moment after booking their place at the 2018 World Cup but Gareth Southgate's side know they face a battle to win the hearts and minds of a sceptical public. They don't have Champions League-winning medals throughout this group, they don't have Premier League-winning medals.

"I get absolutely indignant about the suggestion that players when they play for England don't really care", he said. He has bagged 14 of those - providing more than 60 per cent of the goals.

Even the way it ended, on penalties to Germany, has a glorious tinge.

Thursday's 1-0 victory over Slovenia may have been underwhelming, but what it lacked in entertainment it made up for in optimism as England secured their passage to next summer's tournament.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Kane, in his latest audition for the permanent captaincy, could regularly be seen dropping deep in an attempt to get his team going and he worked Jan Oblak with a 30-yard sighter.

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After negotiating a mediocre qualifying group, England will have a chance to test themselves against better opposition when Germany and Brazil turn up for friendlies at Wembley next month.

The Arsenal midfielder has not played for the national side since November a year ago, but with Gareth Southgate seeking more creativity in midfield, he was considered. People would say Dier could drop back into that position but, for this formation to work, you need three out-and-out centre-halves. These are vital games for us to learn in.

The game was played in Malacca, Malaysia, because worldwide football game in Syria, thousands of kilometres away, is not to be thought of for security reasons.

England will have the returning Dele Alli, who has served his one-match ban from Federation Internationale de Football Association, following his middle finger-gesture versus Slovakia. He's used to playing in front of that back four at Man City where he's had one, two, three shots per game and has pulled off big saves at good times which is crucial. Mikuckis will have a real challenge on his hands.

"England players do not travel well".

England line up friendlies against Germany, Brazil
Gareth Southgate knows England have to improve but has warned there is only so much that can be achieved before the World Cup . England and Germany have met 31 times with the Three Lions winning 13 of those games and drawing three.

And that leads to the best bet in this one.

Do England have quality in depth? Behind them in the pecking order are Jake Livermore and Harry Winks.

News of Scotland's goal against Slovakia lifted the pressure on England and they duly snatched victory when Kane launched himself at Walker's inviting cross to give the long-suffering home fans something to cheer at last. The latter group may have underachieved, but their quality was never in doubt. But now, the likes of Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger are using it regularly at the club level. But for all his talk of depending on the enthusiasm of youth, Southgate is widely regarded as a safety-first manager, whose tactics somewhat stifle his most potent players.

The midfield of Chamberlain, Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson is pedestrian and the return of the suspended Dele Alli only marginally raises hopes. Generally England's best performer since establishing himself in the side, Lallana takes up intelligent positions, quickens the tempo and forms passing triangles in unsafe zones. With England, he remains backup to Harry Kane and even Jamie Vardy. You can get a shade under 6/4 for the last goal in this game to come in the final quarter of an hour (plus injury-time). A flawless finish for Ireland would put them on 13.

The former England manager said: "It's important everyone stays fit". If the gaffer wants me to play, I'll be there definitely, hopefully trying to score a few more goals'.

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