England will be aiming to end their campaign in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on a high when they take on Kosovo at Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri.

Matchday 8 of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers begins on Sunday, with the first phase of the qualification process coming to an end next week. Group A leaders England will play a dead rubber on the day when Kosovo welcome them to Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri.

Kosovo have been the surprise package of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, only to come agonisingly close to clinching a berth at next summer’s tournament. The Dardanet are certain to finish third in Group A after squandering a one-goal lead to be beaten 2-1 by Czech Republic. Nevertheless, the hosts are certain to participate in the playoffs after winning the UEFA Nations League D3.

England, on the other hand, have been largely comfortable in their qualifying campaign for next year’s European Championships. Certain to end as the winners of Group A, the Three Lions have bounced back from a shock defeat to Czech Republic with two big wins over Bulgaria and Montenegro, scoring 13 goals without answer.

The reverse fixture, played on Matchday 6 at St. Mary’s Stadium, was a nail-biter wherein Kosovo ran England close before the hosts prevailed 5-3. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Kosovo

Bernard Challandes & co. have nothing but pride to fight for now. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Bernard Challandes & co. have nothing but pride to fight for now. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Kosovo have been struck with a big blow ahead of the visit of England, with Vedat Muriqi, the Dardanet’s all-time leading goalscorer, forced to pull out from the squad due to an ankle injury. Key midfielder Bernard Berisha remains sidelined with injury as well.

True to nature, Bernard Challandes is expected to line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Arijanet Muric a certain starter in goal ahead of captain Samir Ujkani. The rest of the side is likely to remain largely unchanged, with the Kosovo head coach making a couple of rotations.

Amir Rrahmani and Fidan Aliti have forged a strong central defensive partnership and should continue building on their tandem. Mergim Vojvoda should retain his place on the right side of Kosovo’s defence, although Leart Paqaranda should come in on the opposite flank, replacing Benjamin Kololli.

Valon Berisha will don the armband for Kosovo against England, but the star midfielder ought to have Besar Halimi alongside him in the midfield double pivot, with Anel Rashkaj dropping down to the bench. Up ahead, the final change should see Florent Hadergjonaj making way for Elba Rashani.

Rashani will likely start on the right side of the attack, with Milot Rashica being deployed on the opposite flank. Bersant Celina will have a free role behind the striker, from where he will look to pull the strings, while Atdhe Nuhiu leading the line for Kosovo against England in the absence of Muriqi.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Muric; Vojvoda, Rrahmani, Aliti, Paqaranda; Halimi, Berisha; Rashani, Celina, Rashica; Nuhiu

Kosovo

England

Like his counterpart, Gareth Southgate has a fresh fitness concern to contend with. Joe Gomez will play no part against Kosovo after sustaining a knee injury, thereby bringing an end to an eventful international break that started with an altercation with Raheem Sterling. Jordan Henderson, too, has withdrawn from the England squad, due to illness.

With England booking their place at the UEFA Euro 2020, a few changes could be in the offing, as Southgate continues to zero in on his final squad for the competition. To that end, Dean Henderson and Nick Pope will hope to get a start, with Henderson likely to be handed his maiden England cap.

The defence is likely to see a couple of shuffles as well, with Kieran Trippier and Fikayo Tomori coming into the side. Trippier will replace Trent Alexander-Arnold as the right-back, with debutant Tomori being Harry Maguire’s central defensive partner in place of John Stones. Ben Chilwell will complete the defensive line for England.

With Henderson sidelined, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to get another start, as he continues to make his way back as a regular in the England setup. Harry Winks is likely to sit at the base of the three-man midfield once again, but James Maddison could be the solitary chance in midfield, with Mason Mount making way.

Maddison will take up advanced positions on the pitch and will be the major creative outlet for England. Henderson’s absence also means Harry Kane could start, seeing as he is one of the few senior players in the squad. Tammy Abraham will, therefore, have to suffice with another outing off the bench.

However, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, the two wide men from the last game, could get a breather, with Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi starting. Sterling will look to put the infamous aforementioned bust-up with Gomez behind him, while Hudson-Odoi will have a chance to impress against Kosovo.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Henderson; Trippier, Maguire, Tomori, Chilwell; Maddison, Winks, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sterling, Kane, Hudson-Odoi

England

Key Stats

  • The visit to Kosovo will be England 1,001st international fixture. In 1,000 previous games, the Three Lions have won 569 times (D241 L190).
  • Kosovo are unbeaten in their last 12 matches at home (W10 D2), dating back to October 2017, with Ukraine being the last team to get the better of them at home.
  • England have scored 34 goals in just nine games in 2019, their highest tally in a single calendar year since 1982 (34 in 15 games). They last scored more in a single year in 1966 (38).
  • Harry Kane has scored 14 goals in only 12 Euro qualifying appearances. His next strike will take him past Wayne Rooney (27 matches) as England’s highest Euro qualifying scorer.
  • Harry Kane has scored more goals than any other England player when starting the match as captain (24).

Player to Watch

James Maddison

A big chance. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

A big chance. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

With qualification to the 2020 European Championships sealed, Gareth Southgate can now begin to fill in the final spots in his squad. Midfield is an area where there remains some uncertainties, with Southgate not having many creative options at his disposal. In such a scenario, James Maddison emerges as a possible option.

The Leicester City midfielder was caught in controversy last month when he was spotted in a casino after pulling out from the squad due to illness. Now, with a second chance being handed to him, Maddison will look to make amends, and a solid showing against a tricky Kosovo side could be exactly what the doctor ordered for him. A big game for the young midfielder.

Prediction

Kosovo 2-3 England

With nothing to lose, Kosovo are likely to approach the game with the objective of springing a surprise on England. To that end, another keenly contested affair should be served up to us, with an end to end game ensuing.

The hosts will take the game to the Group A winners, but Gareth Southgate & co. should have enough quality to just about edge the tricky Kosovo side. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-2 win for England, who end their UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers campaign with another win.

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