Will Marcus Rashford make a qualifier return? – 5 talking points

Will Marcus Rashford make a qualifier return? – 5 talking points

England continue their quest for European Championship qualification against Malta on Friday evening.

Ahead of the Group C clash at Ta’ Qali National Stadium, the PA news agency has taken a look at some of the talking points.

Yes, there really is more football…

You didn’t think the season was over, did you?

The curtain may have come down on the mammoth domestic campaign with Manchester City’s Champions League triumph against Inter Milan, but now attention turns to international matters. Some players have had to pause their post-season break and others have yet to have any break before the straightforward Euro 2024 qualification doubleheader against Malta and North Macedonia.

Rashford to make qualifier return?

Marcus Rashford is in line to appear in a qualifier for the first time since November 2019. That win in Kosovo was England’s final match before the coronavirus pandemic temporarily halted the international calendar. Rashford had to pull out of numerous camps over the subsequent years and his decision to head to New York in March while England were winning their group opener 2-1 in Italy sparked debate. Gareth Southgate defended the injured forward’s decision to jet off to the United States and Rashford insisted this week he is fully committed to England, saying he does not care if onlookers criticise or question his dedication to the national team.

Have City stars sobered up?

Manchester City won the Champions League but now matters turn to internationals
Manchester City won the Champions League but now matters turn to internationals (Martin Rickett/PA)

England’s quintet of bleary-eyed Manchester City players rocked up at St George’s Park on Tuesday evening on the back of some wild celebrations. Jack Grealish was front and centre of the revelry after completing the treble by winning the Champions League against Inter Milan on Saturday evening. John Stones, Kalvin Phillips, Kyle Walker and Phil Foden also partied after making history in Istanbul all the way onto Monday’s rain-soaked parade in Manchester. The five players all travelled to Malta for the match and Southgate has a decision to make over their availability.

New faces to feature?

Eberechi Eze
Eberechi Eze is hoping for a debut (Nick Potts/PA)

Eberechi Eze is eyeing a senior debut after being included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the first time. This opportunity has been a long time coming for the 24-year-old, who would have been involved sooner had it not been for an Achilles injury suffered on the same day as he found he had made England’s provisional Euro 2020 squad in May 2021. Inspired form in the latter stages of the season under Roy Hodgson saw him included for June’s double-header. There is also a chance of Levi Colwill could make his debut. Part of the England Under-21s squad heading to this summers Euros, he trained with the squad this week after his Brighton team-mate Lewis Dunk was forced to withdraw through injury. Initially just a training role, Colwill has been brought with the squad to Malta so has a chance of also making his bow.

Can the Maltese cause England a scare?

Can Michele Marcolini's team cause an upset?
Can Michele Marcolini’s team cause an upset? (Nick Potts/PA)

The bookmakers’ odds underline the task facing the team ranked 172nd in the world. England are 1/50 to win a match that you can get Malta at 80/1 to triumph in at sold-out Ta’ Qali National Stadium in Friday evening. The Falcons head into the match fresh from last week’s 1-0 win in Luxembourg – a victory which may not resonate worldwide but against a team 80 places above them in the FIFA rankings it suggests quick progress in Michele Marcolini’s three games in charge. Malta also frustrated Italy, with the reigning European champions only managing a 2-0 win at Ta’ Qali in March.