England will have another chance to book their place at the 2020 UEFA Euro when they take on Bulgaria in a Group A tie in Sofia on Monday.
The second week of the latest international break is underway and it’s Matchday 8 of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers. Group A leaders England will be in action on Monday, when they face rock-bottom Bulgaria at the the Vasil Levski National Stadium, hoping to qualify for next summer’s blockbuster event.
Bulgaria have been one of the most unimpressive teams at the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, having failed to win a single game after their first six games of the campaign. They are the bottom feeders of Group A, with no chance of reaching the finals.
England, on the other hand, have been in fine form for the most part, and are just one win away from securing a berth at the European Championships. But, the Three Lions received a bit of a setback in their last encounter, as Czech Republic handed them a shock 2-1 defeat to delay the inevitable.
The reverse fixture, played at Wembley last month, ended in a 4-0 rout of Bulgaria, with England captain Harry Kane the hat-trick hero for the Group A leaders. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Krasimir Balakov lost two players to injury ahead of last week’s fixture against Montenegro, with experienced defenders Strahil Popov and Vasil Bozhikov withdrawing from the squad. Popov did feature in the stalemate and will need replacing in the middle of the park.
Georgi Kostadinov should be the man to replace Popov, with the 29-year-old set to reprise the Anchor Man role in front of the back four. The defensive line is likely to remain unchanged, with Georgi Pashov and Anton Nedyalkov being the full-back pairing, while Kristian Dimitrov and Petar Zanev will form the central defensive partnership. Plamen Iliev will take his place in goal.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov is likely to return to the starting lineup after being left out of the side last time out. Popov, who should replace Marcelinho, will be one of the two creative midfielders for the hosts, with Kristiyan Malinov being the other player who will take up the advanced central position.
Experience will be the name of the game for the wide areas, with Wanderson and Galin Ivanov providing the width for Bulgaria. Bozhidar Kraev, a winger by trade, has been leading the line for the hosts and will be the central striker once again when England come visiting.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Iliev; Pashov, Dimitrov, Zanev, Nedyalkov; Kostadinov; Ivanov, Popov, Malinov, Wanderson; Kraev
Gareth Southgate will be reeling from his side’s shock 2-1 loss at Czech Republic and could make a few alterations to the side that started last time out. Jordan Pickford, though, is expected to keep his place between the sticks for England.
But, the defence should see radical changes, with Harry Maguire the only player likely to be retained at the back. Maguire ought to be partnered by Joe Gomez at the heart of the English backline, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell coming into the side to reprise the full-back roles.
Declan Rice failed to impress as England’s defensive midfielder and might lose his place, with Harry Winks getting a chance to make his mark. Jordan Henderson, though, could keep his place, with Mason Mount being retained as the creative midfielder for England.
Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho will be the two wingers for England yet again, with Sancho providing the creative thrust from the right flank. Harry Kane will don the armband and lead the line for England, with Tammy Abraham, Marcus Rashford and Callum Wilson missing out.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Maguire, Chilwell; Henderson, Winks, Mount; Sancho, Kane, Sterling
- Bulgaria and England will be meeting for the 12th time on Monday. In their 11 previous encounters, England are unbeaten against the Lions, with 7 wins to their name (D4).
- Bulgaria have failed to win each of their last three competitive fixtures at home, losing one of those games (D2).
- In fact, Bulgaria are without a win in each of their last ten games, drawing five and losing as many matches.
- Gareth Southgate (W21 D9 L8) has lost as many games as England manager in 38 matches as Roy Hodgson lost in 56 matches as manager (W33 D15 L8).
- Harry Kane has scored 20 goals in 21 matches for England when starting as captain. The only player with more is Vivian Woodward (23 goals between 1908 and 1911).
Player to Watch
Declan Rice has been one of the more impressive players for England this year. But, the last two fixtures have seen the West Ham United midfielder stutter a little, especially against Czech Republic. Rice’s slip-up, though, now opens up an opportunity for Winks.
Slotting in the middle of the park as England’s holding midfielder, Winks will need to shut off Bulgaria completely, giving the Three Lions the chance to finally qualify for next summer’s European Championships. A domineering performance will go a long way in helping the Tottenham star cement his place in the side at the same time. A key game for Winks.
Bulgaria 1-3 England
The loss to Czech Republic was quite a shock. But, it was nothing more than a blip, and England are expected to get back on track on Monday. Bulgaria are one of the worst sides at the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers and are unlikely to put up much of a fight.
But, England’s defensive frailties would give the hosts a bit of a look-in, albeit only for a slight flourish. Expect Gareth Southgate’s men to thoroughly dominate, producing a response following the loss to Czech Republic. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for the visitors.