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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Prolific Kane could strike first for Three Lions

Spurs talisman set to run Tartan Army ragged

Harry Kane looks set for a starring role in Glasgow
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World Cup qualifying Group F
ITV & Sky Sports 1, 5pm Saturday

England enter the second half of their World Cup qualifying campaign in a strong position - four points clear of second-placed Slovakia - and can take another major step on the road to Russia 2018 by beating Scotland at Hampden Park.

The Three Lions strolled to a 3-0 victory at Wembley in November in a game that confirmed Scotland fans’ fears about the current state of the Tartan Army’s squad.

There was no lack of effort from the Scots but they struggled badly in both boxes and were left to conduct a damage-limitation exercise after England had raced into a three-goal lead inside 61 minutes.

The Scots responded with a well-deserved 1-0 victory over Slovenia – one of their closest rivals for a playoff place – much to the relief of under-fire manager Gordon Strachan.

But another loss to England would put Strachan back under pressure and make it very difficult to qualify.

Pre-match fervour has centred on Southgate’s decision to omit captain Wayne Rooney because of the "good form of other players".

Chief among them is Harry Kane, who looks sure to lead the line after another prolific campaign with Tottenham, scoring 29 goals in 30 Premier League appearance.

Kane ended the season with eight goals in three games - securing the Golden Boot for a second successive season - and if he is in the same sort of form, he could run riot against a suspect Scottish defence.

Scotland's best form of defence may be to attack.

They had their moments at Wembley but showed a lack of composure in front of goal.

The Scots have scored in their previous two matches against England, losing 3-1 at Celtic Park in November 2014 and 3-2 at Wembley in August 2013, and might find the net again.

The timing of the fixture, almost three weeks after the end of the Premier League season, presents a challenge to both managers.

Player fitness may not be a major problem but a loss of focus could be a factor.

Two summers ago, England were in a similarly strong position on the road to Euro 2016 and produced a defensively lax performance in a 3-2 victory away to Slovenia.

There was an end-of-season feel about the Three Lions' display that day and a similarly relaxed attitude may open the door for the Scots to get on the scoresheet.

There is no outstanding individual quality in the Scotland attack but they will have been buoyed by the performance against Slovenia when Stachan's men played at a higher tempo than earlier in the campaign.

England will have to match the fire in Scottish bellies and then their superior quality should make the difference.

They have failed to score on their last two road trips, drawing 0-0 with Slovenia in October and losing 1-0 to Germany in March.

However, Southgate's side found it easy to pick holes in a very one-paced Scottish defence at Wembley and should be back among the goals in Glasgow.

Over 2.5 goals
1pt 29-20 Betfair
England win and both teams to score
1pt 18-5 Betfair, Ladbrokes

Key stat
Harry Kane scored 35 goals in 39 appearances last season

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Another defeat at the hands of the auld enemy could prove terminal for Strachan's future and Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for Russia
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