It’s September, it’s raining and we’re playing Wales…

You’ve got to hand it to Wales – bottom of the group without any wins or hope of qualification and they beat our nearest rivals on Friday night. We’re now three points clear at the top of the group with a far superior goal difference to Montenegro going into tonight’s game.

We’ve not played Wales at Wembley since February 1983 (the qualifier for the 2006 World Cup was played at Old Trafford) which surprised me a bit because I grew up with the old Home International tournament and we played each other at least once a year until that competition was abandoned almost 30 years ago.

Before anyone gets too carried away, it’s worth pointing out that in the last ten meetings between England and Wales where we’ve been the home team we’ve only lost once (0-1 in May 1977) but we’ve only won four of those games. Five games were drawn, including the match in Janary 1973 that arguably did more damage to England’s chances of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup qualifying competition than both of the disastrous games against with Poland.

It’s worth highlighting our recent home record against the Welsh because we’ve drawn three of our four home games since beating Bulgaria a year ago – our poorest run of home form for about five years. Wales are currently on a four game losing streak away from Cardiff but won’t need any motivating for this game: however, they’ve had a problem scoring away from home recently – one goal in four games going back to before the last World Cup – and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if England kept a clean sheet.

Regarding team news, Wales have Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy and David Vaughan (Sunderland) suspended but Jack Collison is expected to return even though if he plays tonight FIFA rules means that he’s committed his international future to Wales - the West Ham midfielder has only previously appeared in friendlies, which means he could theoretically still switch to England.

We’re going to be missing Leighton Baines, Darren Bent and Micah Richards but as none of them played any part in the win at the weekend it looks very much as if the same team that won at the weekend will start tonight’s game.

TV coverage is on ITV1 with the waffle and hype part of the show (featuring Frank’s fiancee’s mate Adrian) starting at 7:00pm before the game kicks off 45 minutes later. As usual with ITV’s bizarre football coverage, if you’ve missed the game for some reason there’ll be a break for the news at 10:00pm and then you can watch highlights. I’m sure there must be people who’ll miss the live game for good reasons, but it’s basically saying to the rest of us ‘turn over or go to bed’…

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