FIVE talking points ahead of England v Lithuania:
KANE OR WELBECK?
Eagle-eyed photographers spotted a scrap of paper in Roy Hodgson’s hand during training on Tuesday which suggested the England manager would start with Harry Kane up front alongside Wayne Rooney against Lithuania. Kane has scored nearly five times more Premier League goals than Danny Welbeck this year, but Hodgson is fiercely loyal to the players he has used during his two years as England boss. Welbeck is certainly one of them. The Arsenal forward has played 28 times under the 67-year-old. He is England’s top scorer in qualifying with five goals and Rooney is known to enjoy playing alongside his old Manchester United team-mate.
IS KANE ABLE?
If Kane does not start, he is sure to come off the substitutes’ bench at some stage. Expectations are high following Kane’s excellent season with Tottenham. He started the campaign as third-choice striker, but has become the first name on the Spurs team-sheet after a whopping return of 29 goals. International football is a different challenge, though. Kane will be on the field with men he has never played alongside before. He managed to adapt for the Under-21s though, scoring eight goals in 10 appearances for the Young Lions.
WILL ROONEY BECOME A RECORD-BREAKER?
If Rooney bags a hat-trick on Friday, he will equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s 49-goal England scoring record. Since the heady days of Euro 2004, Rooney’s international career has had more lows than highs, but he has matured into a strong leader of the pack and goes into the match in relatively good form so he will be confident of reaching the milestone either on Friday or during Tuesday’s friendly in Italy.
IS IT TIME FOR A CHANGE AT THE BACK?
Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka have been Hodgson’s first-choice centre-back pairing for the majority of the last 18 months, but both players have struggled this year. Cahill lost his place in the Chelsea team to Kurt Zouma for a while and Jagielka has been part of an Everton defence guilty of conceding 42 league goals this season. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have been in the international fold for four years, but they have played together at centre-back for England just once - against Ecuador in Miami last summer. The pair have looked fairly solid for Manchester United against Tottenham and Liverpool recently so Hodgson may be tempted to make a change.
DOES JOE HART NEED TO BRING A DECKCHAIR?
Hart’s 49th cap should be one of the easiest. Lithuania are 94th in the FIFA rankings and it would be a huge upset if they even managed to score at Wembley on Friday. Coach Igoris Pankratjevas does not have many players to choose from as his country’s population stands at just three million. The current squad contains players who ply their trade in Kazakhstan, Israel, Poland, Romania and Russia. One name which will be familiar to Rangers fans is that of their centre-back Marius Zaliukas.