Lithuania vs England Preview: Southgate to hand Butland opportunity with group sewn up

Gareth Southgate will hand an opportunity to Stoke City 'keeper Jack Butland as he begins official preparations for the 2018 World Cup.

Lithuania vs England Preview: Southgate to hand Butland opportunity with group sewn up
Butland in training (photo: Getty Images / Dan Mullan)

Jack Butland will start for England against Lithuania on Sunday evening, with the Three Lions already assured of their spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Having won 1-0 against Slovenia despite a poor performance thanks to Harry Kane's 94th minute winner on Thursday, England assured top spot in Group F with a game to spare.

Whilst Scotland, Slovakia and the aforementioned Slovenia scrap out for second place and a resulting play-off place on Sunday, England can look forward to a fairly leisurely game against a side second bottom of the group.

Still, Lithuania have done well to avoid the wooden spoon, picking up draw's away to Scotland and Malta, the latter of which they defeated at home.

Astonishing qualifying record for England

Yet, you'd expect England to come away with a fairly routine win, one that would take them to a very healthy 26 points out of 30 as the group concludes. 

Having won every single game on their way to Euro 2016 qualifying, two draw's in this group represents a meagre drop off under Southgate, plus Sam Allardyce who of course took charge of the opening qualifier before his subsequent sacking for an off-field scandal.

England's unbeaten run in qualifying matches actually stretches back to 2009, having remained unbeaten in qualifying for the last three major tournament's they've played in. 

A 1-0 loss to Ukraine, when England had already won the group, was the most recent loss that the Three Lions have endured during a qualifier, going unbeaten in 37 games since, a record they expect to stretch further on Sunday.

An opportunity for some

However, it will be an opportunity for the 'lesser' members of the camp to get involved, even a chance for some to make Southgate think about his selection for next month's high profile friendlies against Germany and Brazil.

Jack Butland will finally get a start in goal with many fans clamouring for him to replace Joe Hart as the permanent number one, whilst there could be opportunities for the likes of Jesse Lingard, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Winks to pick up some international minutes. 

International Football