As soon as Roy Hodgson’s England World Cup squad was announced at Vauxhall’s Luton base, several bookmakers were straight up with odds about who will start the opening match against Italy on June 14.
Simon’s Recommended Bets:
Danny Welbeck To Start @ 6/4
James Milner To Start @ 11/8
The main value bets lie in the attacking midfield area. The two wide positions look a three-way fight between James Milner, Danny Welback and Adam Lallana. I’d be genuinely shocked if Roy Hodgson doesn’t pick one of Milner and Welbeck and at the prices I would load up on both at odds-against – you should turn a profit and could easily double up too.
Simon’s Predicted XI (in a 4-2-3-1):
Johnson Cahill Jagielka Baines
Milner Rooney Welbeck
MORTGAGE JOB BANKERS:
Joe Hart (best odds 1/25): The Man City stopper was the only player to start all 10 qualification matches and is absolutely nailed on, barring injury of course.
Steven Gerrard (1/20): It would obviously be unthinkable for Hodgson to leave out captain Gerrard and much of England’s midfield play goes through him.
Wayne Rooney (1/16): Rooney has his detractors in England but Roy Hodgson played him off a main striker in all of the key qualification matches and even captained him on one occasion. Another guaranteed.
Gary Cahill (1/14): Only Phil Jagielka started more qualification games at centre-back than Cahill and he’s had a fine season for Chelsea so is surely nailed-on.
Leighton Baines (1/9): Hodgson only used Baines and Ashley Cole as left-backs in qualification so the latter’s absence surely cements the starting berth of the Everton man against Italy.
Glen Johnson (1/8): The absence of Kyle Walker should leave the path clear for Johnson to start – he has been criticised for his defensive work at Liverpool but was solid for Hodgson at Euro.
Phil Jagielka (1/6): ’Jags’ should be shorter than 1/6. He started the last four qualification games and is undisputedly England’s first choice centre-back along with Cahill.
Daniel Sturridge (1/8): While Sturridge is a likely starter I certainly wouldn’t be ploughing in at 1/8. He only played in England’s final two qualification games while he hasn’t played a full match for Liverpool since March so Hodgson may choose to be careful with this famously brittle player.
Adam Lallana (5/6): Another player who played no part in qualification but impressed everyone with his displays in the last three friendlies before the squad was named. Hodgson has been a regular at St Mary’s this season and is a known big admirer of the Southampton man.
Jack Wilshere (evens): This looks a risky punt at even money. Firstly Wilshere is barely fit – he played his first football since March on the final Premier League weekend, which was a 27-minute cameo. Secondly he had almost no influence in qualification, starting just two matches.
Jordan Henderson (evens): Yet another player who played no part in qualification but was regularly featured in the final friendlies before the squad was named. If I was England manager Henderson would be in my XI playing off one forward for his work-rate and tactical intelligence (stick him on Andrea Pirlo!) but Hodgson has used him further back.
Raheem Sterling (11/10): Sterling played no part in qualification but started (and was man of the match) in England’s last friendly game before the squad was named. On form he’d probably be in the XI but Hodgson would likely use him on the flanks in a 4-2-3-1 and competition is fierce there.
Danny Welbeck (6/4): I think 6/4 is worth a punt. Welbeck started four of the last five qualification games on the left of Roy Hodgson’s attacking midfield three and has seemingly been in the manager’s good books from Euro 2012 onwards.
James Milner (11/8): Milner’s last three competitive starts have been away in Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland. Conclusion? He’s a big game player and Hodgson knows it.
Frank Lampard (6/1): Along with Gerrard, Lampard is the only player in the squad who started a qualification game in the double pivot. He’s also been involved in England’s recent friendly squads despite not playing regularly for Chelsea, and Hodgson hasn’t been afraid to use him regularly alongside Gerrard.
NO CHANCE BARRING INJURY:
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (7/2): Hodgson is a fan of ‘The Ox’ but he’s only started one Arsenal game since March and other players look to have moved ahead of him in the pecking order.
Phil Jones (7/2): Hasn’t nailed down a regular position for England and has surely been brought as utility cover for right and centre-back. His injury only adds further complications as well.
Chris Smalling (9/2): Hodgson hasn’t been afraid to use Smalling throughout his reign and is clearly a fan. If anything happens to Cahill, Jagielka or Johnson then he’ll start. If not, he’ll be on the bench.
Luke Shaw (6/1): Not much to say here – Shaw won’t start unless Baines gets injured.
Ross Barkley (7/1): It’s hard to see how Barkley would oust the plethora of attacking midfield options for the Italy game after hardly featuring for England in qualification.
Rickie Lambert (16/1): Lambert is seen as the ‘Plan B’ option off the bench and though Hodgson did start him in a couple of qualifiers it’s a leap of faith to see him making the XI against Italy.