The lead up to Friday night’s ‘Battle of Britain’ has been overshadowed by controversy over England and Scotland’s lack of permission to display poppies whilst playing. FIFA have refused to clarify their stance and the two home nations have confirmed they will defy any ban imposed.
An emotional backdrop fuels an inevitably passionate occasion. The last time England and Scotland met in a competitive fixture was November 1999, in a match that saw Don Hutchinson head Scotland to a 1-0 victory, whilst preventing England from managing a single shot on target.
A lack of firepower seventeen years on still threatens to prevent England from overcoming their fierce rivals. After enduring a difficult Euro 2016, Harry Kane is struggling to prove his fitness to interim manager Gareth Southgate, with out-of- favour Liverpool striker, Daniel Sturridge, set to spearhead England’s attack.
Sturridge will be supported by the in-favour and in-form Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling. The performance and width maintained by these players could be crucial in overcoming a Scottish side that has problems in full-back positions, with Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney injured, as well as Alan Hutton, who has made himself unavailable.
Stoke midfielder, Charlie Adam, has criticised Scotland manager Gordon Strachan in the lead up to the game, with the rejuvenated Scott Brown selected ahead of him. Adam believes ‘his face does not fit’ in the Scotland squad and thinks Strachan is not picking the best players available to him.
In contrast, the England camp have been very supportive of Southgate, with Wayne Rooney earmarked for a return to the starting line-up, as captain. Rooney has a point to prove and his deputising captain, Jordan Henderson, hopes he can take inspiration from Paul Gascoigne, whose Euro ‘96 goal is still remembered twenty years on.
Robert Snodgrass had been expected to miss Friday’s game, but recovered from an ankle injury in time to score in Hull’s win over Southampton on Sunday. With misfiring strikers, Steven Fletcher and Leigh Griffiths, unlikely to capitalise on England’s erratic central defenders, Snodgrass’ set-pieces may be Scotland’s greatest hope of masterminding another upset.