Why Roy Hodgson would be wrong to underestimate Scotland with weakened XI

Ahead of England’s international friendly against Scotland on Tuesday, manager Roy Hodgson revealed he would be making changes from the side which recently earned a 3-1 win against Slovenia in their fourth Euro 2016 qualifier.

The 67-year-old has sent first-choice ‘keeper Joe Hart (Manchester City) home, meaning Fraser Forster (Southampton) is expected to start between the sticks ahead of Ben Foster (West Brom), while the likes of Saido Berahino (West Brom) and Ross Barkley (Everton) could both be in line to start. Hodgson is set to make more changes to the starting eleven, but is adamant he’s more than respecting the opposition.

“We will take the game very seriously. Please don’t get the impression that I don’t take the game seriously and don’t have a lot of respect for it because I do,” he said. “I am going to need some experienced players on the field (too). I can’t just make wholesale changes because we want to go up there and give a performance.”

England last played Scotland in a friendly back in August 2013, with the Three Lions earned bragging rights at Wembley in front of over 80,000 supporters. Despite the win, Roy Hodgson’s side were given a  scare, with Scotland twice taking the lead in the game through James Morrison (West Brom) and Kenny Miller (Rangers). Theo Walcott (Arsenal) and Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) respectively cancelled out their efforts, before Rickie Lambert (Liverpool) came off the bench to net the winner.

This time round, however, promises to be a completely new challenge for England. Scotland are full of confidence given their impressive form in the Euro 2016 qualifiers – wins against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland, while drawing against Poland. Under manager Gordon Strachan, there’s a new-found belief with the Scots, and coupled with home advantage on Tuesday – with the tie being played at Celtic Park – could well see England struggle.

Scotland are boasting a strong squad, and Strachan isn’t likely to rest any of his big names for the clash. There is more than pride on the line for the Blues ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, and every player in the squad, along with the supporters, will be fired up from kick-off until full time. They were typically spirited in their last Euro 2016 qualifier against rivals Republic of Ireland, and there will be no let up on Tuesday.

England’s consistent knack of starting slow in games could well go against them, as it did against Scotland last year, and most recently against Slovenia. It’s worth noting the Three Lions haven’t scored a first-half goal in any of their four away internationals (excluding neutral stadiums) played this year. So can Roy Hodgson really afford to ring the changes against Scotland?