Returning Lallana to help end Wembley’s wait for goal? – 5 talking points ahead of England vs. Italy

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England host Italy at Wembley on Tuesday night. Here, Press Association Sport looks at the major points of interest ahead of the friendly.

Adding to Southgate’s Clean Sheet Collection

England have not conceded a goal in their last five outings, a defensive record to be proud of and a clear vindication of Gareth Southgate’s preferred three-man defence.

To make it six in a row against a nation famed for their tactical strength and prowess at the back would be a fitting achievement.

Having shut out the likes of Germany, Brazil and Holland, adding another European heavyweight to the list would provide a real shot in the arm for both the system and the personnel.

 

End Wembley’s Wait For a Goal

England's Jordan Henderson in action during the World Cup Qualifying Group F match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date October 8th, 2016 Pic David Klein/Sportimage via PA Images

The flip side of England’s strong defensive displays has been a certain shyness in attack.

Jesse Lingard popped up to provide the winner in Amsterdam last week but home fans were treated to precious little attacking threat during the stalemates against Germany and Brazil.

That could be forgiven due to the sheer quality of the visiting sides but with Italy missing out on the World Cup entirely, there will be an expectation at HQ for the home side to set the agenda.

That would be a lot easier with a fit Harry Kane, but in his absence they must find inspiration elsewhere.

 

Butland’s Big Chance

PARIS, FRANCE - Tuesday, June 13, 2017: England's goalkeeper Jack Butland looks dejected as his side lose 3-2 to France during an international friendly match at the Stade de France. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jordan Pickford may only have two caps to his name but the Everton man is quickly emerging as many pundits’ favourite to take the gloves when England begin their Russian odyssey against Tunisia.

This match represents Jack Butland’s opportunity to level the playing field.

Trusted by Southgate from their time together with England Under-21s and capable of bringing considerable presence to the job, the Stoke man nevertheless needs everything to go right.

Firstly he needs Italy’s forward line to provide enough action to showcase his skills and then he must match Pickford’s impressive distribution.

 

Adam’s Absence Cannot Last

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 26, 2017: England's Adam Lallana in action against Lithuania during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group F match at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

England’s first World Cup qualifying match, under Sam Allardyce lest we forget, was settled by an added-time winner from Adam Lallana in Slovakia.

It was a pivotal point in the Liverpool man’s international career, who was in the middle of a hot streak that saw him become one of the country’s most reliable performers.

Injury intervened and he has not kicked a ball for England in their last seven matches.

After settling for a watching brief against Holland he must surely be in line for a lengthy run out this time, if only to see if he is ready to slip back into a side that has undergone a tactical shift since his last appearance.

 

Bye Bye Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon will be part of the Italian squad having brushed aside the small matter of retirement to accept the call from caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio.

The 40-year-old great made the 176th appearance of a storied international career against Argentina on Friday, so may give way to heir apparent Gianluigi Donnarumma at Wembley.

Either way, England fans have the chance to pay a respectful farewell to a giant of the modern era and, potentially, get a glimpse of his successor.

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