England will be hoping to make two wins in two in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers when they lock horns with Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday.
The first international break of the year continues with its second and final week, as the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers resumes with the Matchday 2 fixtures. England will be in action on Monday, when they travel to Podgorica to take on Montenegro in their second Group A fixture.
Montenegro were in action on Friday, opening their qualification campaign with a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria, who came back from a goal down to share the spoils. The Brave Falcons also had a UEFA Nations League C campaign to forget, finishing third in the Group 4 standings, and have only won two of their last 13 games.
England, on the other hand, have only been going from strength to strength under Gareth Southgate’s tutelage. After finishing fourth at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Three Lions topped Group 4 of Nations League A to reach this summer’s finals. And, they began the UEFA Euro 2020 qualification campaign with a comprehensive 5-0 win over Czech Republic.
It has been nearly six years since Montenegro and England faced off against each other, with the Three Lions being the 4-1 victors back then. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ljubisa Tumbakovic is without the two biggest players from the country – vice captain Stefan Savic and captain Stevan Jovetic – both of whom are unavailable due to injuries. In their absence, the onus will be on Danijel Petkovic and Adam Marusic to keep the backline organised and frustrate the English attack.
Tumbakovic should line his side up in the dynamic 4-4-2 once again, with the two blocks of four remaining disciplined while defending against the threat of England. The front men – likely to be Fatos Beciraj and Stefan Mugosa – will form the first line of defence for Montenegro.
The two strikers will also have to be clinical when presented with rare chances in front of goal. The creative threat will be supplied largely by Marko Jankovic and Marko Vesovic, who will be the two wide midfielders for the hosts.
In the middle of the park, the bulk of the responsibility will be on Nikola Vukcevic to mark efficiently in the specific zones, while also guiding Mirko Ivanic. Marusic should be the right-back, with Petkovic manning the goal. The experienced duo of Marko Simic and Zarko Tomasevic will form the central defensive partnership, with Risto Radunovic being the left-back.
Predicted Lineup (4-4-2): Petkovic; Marusic, Simic, Tomasevic, Stojkovic; Jankovic, Ivanic, Vukcevic, Vesovic; Mugosa, Beciraj
Gareth Southgate has seen a number of players withdraw their names from the original squad he named for the latest set of international fixtures. And, Eric Dier is the latest England player who has pulled out of the squad that was already missing the likes of Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and John Stones due to injuries.
The Tottenham Hotspur superstar, who picked up a muscle injury against Czech Republic, is likely to be replaced by Declan Rice, who will play the no. 6 role in the three-man midfield. The other two spots in the middle of the park should be retained by Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli, although the in-form James Ward-Prowse is due a chance as well.
Should Ward-Prowse get his chance, it is likely that Alli will be rested for the tie. Meanwhile, Southgate is expected to continue with the 4-3-3 formation that he seems to be building his side up in with the 2020 UEFA Euro in mind.
There are unlikely to be any changes in attack, with Jadon Sancho impressing on his first competitive start for England, while Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane are ever present upfront. Callum Hudson-Odoi though, should make another appearance from the bench, after making a mark on his debut against Czech Republic.
At the back, however, there could be a few shuffles, with Harry Maguire the only one keeping his place. Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose should take up the full-back slots, while James Tarkowski will hope to partner Maguire at the heart of the defence that will likely provide cover to Tom Heaton instead of Jordan Pickford.
Predicted Lineup (4-3-3): Heaton; Trippier, Tarkowski, Maguire, Rose; Henderson, Rice, Alli; Sancho, Kane, Sterling
- England are yet to be beaten by Montenegro in four meetings thus far, although they have only won once (D3).
- The Three Lions though, are yet to prevail in an away fixture with Montenegro, having been held to 2-2 and 1-1 draws in the two encounters thus far.
- England are unbeaten in their last 40 qualifying matches (Euros and World Cup), since a 1-0 defeat by Ukraine in October 2009 (W31 D9).
- Raheem Sterling has scored with five of his last seven shots for England – he had scored with just two of his first 62 efforts at goal for the Three Lions.
- Harry Kane has scored 16 goals for England under Gareth Southgate – 11 more than any other player.
Player to Watch
The long-standing Ireland-England debate has finally come to an end, with Declan Rice choosing to represent the Three Lions in senior international football. And, with Eric Dier pulling out due to injury, the pieces seem to be fitting into the puzzle at just the right time for the West Ham United midfielder.
While Montenegro are unlikely to be the biggest test, the game presents the 20-year-old the perfect platform to make a steady full international debut for England. A great career potentially beckons Declan Rice, who will hope to make a solid impression on his first start in Gareth Southgate’s side.
Montenegro 0-3 England
Montenegro, missing two of their biggest stars, look like a shell of their best on both ends of the pitch. England, on the other hand, can do no wrong at the moment under Gareth Southgate, who has galvanised an underachieving side, which is now a confident group of players.
With Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho providing the youthful exuberance, and Harry Kane leading from the front, England will hope to make short work of their opponents on Monday. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 3-0 win for the Three Lions, to take control of Group A of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers.