England will aim to make it a perfect international break when they welcome Poland to Wembley in a Group I match of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers.
The international break is reaching its end, with the final few games set to be played this midweek. On Wednesday, Matchday 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers in Europe will culminate, with one of the big games being played at Wembley, where England will play hosts to Poland.
England have made a fine start to their campaign in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers, having eased past San Marino and Albania in their opening two fixtures. The Three Lions have plundered seven goals while conceding none, stretching such a run to three games, with their final fixture of 2020 ending in a 4-0 win over Iceland.
Poland, on the other hand, were a little slow off the blocks, as they came from behind to hold Hungary to a 3-3 draw to begin their qualifying campaign. The White and Reds, though, followed up a nervy start with a 3-0 win over Andorra this past weekend, although that came at the cost of the injury that captain Robert Lewandowski picked up.
England were 2-0 victors the last time they locked horns with Poland, back in the qualification process for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, with Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Gareth Southgate has no fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Poland. The only major absentees in the ongoing international break from the squad that the England boss picked initially are Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford, with the duo recovering from their respective fitness issues.
Apart from Saka and Rashford, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho are the other key players who are not a part of the squad. Nevertheless, Southgate still has a strong core at his disposal and should once again line England up in a 4-3-3 formation against Poland, with Nick Pope a confirmed starter in goal; and the Burnley shot-stopper will aim to keep yet another clean sheet this midweek.
The defensive line is unlikely to see a change, even though Reece James and Kieran Trippier will be hoping for a start ahead of Kyle Walker. On the left flank, Luke Shaw is likely to start again after impressing on his return while John Stones and Harry Maguire will pair up at the heart of England’s defence.
Up ahead in midfield, Southgate has oddly favoured a largely pro-defensive trifecta featuring just one creative midfielder, who ought to be Mason Mount. Mount will likely have Declan Rice and James Ward-Prowse for company in the middle of the park, with the latter replacing Kalvin Phillips after a sub-par showing against Albania.
The attacking trio, however, remains unchanged, although Jesse Lingard will be pushing for a recall after a solid display versus San Marino. However, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden will remain the two wide men for England, with captain Harry Kane leading the line against Poland.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pope; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Ward-Prowse, Rice, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Foden
Unlike his counterpart in the England dugout, Paulo Sousa has plenty of roster issues to contend with ahead of the trip to Wembley. On Wednesday, the Poland head coach will be bereft of the services of three players who have featured in the latest international break.
The major absentee, as iterated earlier, is Robert Lewandowski. The Poland captain has returned to his club Bayern Munich after sustaining a knee injury that is likely to sideline him for a little over a week. In addition, Kamil Piatkowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak miss out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Lewandowski ought to be replaced by Arkadiusz Milik in the strike partnership, where he will be partnered by Krzysztof Piatek. Indeed, Poland should once again be set up in the 4-3-1-2 formation, with Wojciech Szczesny taking his place between the sticks.
Piatkowski is likely to make way for Jan Bednarek, who will pair up with Kamil Glik at the heart of Poland’s defence, which will likely be completed by Bartosz Bereszynski and Maciej Rybus as the two full-backs who will be tasked with providing the width higher up the pitch in the absence of a natural winger.
As for the midfield, the quartet will remain compact, hoping to create an overload in order to win the battle in the middle of the park. Among the four, Piotr Zielinski will reprise the no. 10 role and provide the creative impetus centrally while Rafal Augustyniak will replace Krychowiak, partnering Jakub Moder and Kamil Jozwiak in the midfield.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Bereszynski, Glik, Bednarek, Rybus; Augustyniak, Moder, Jozwiak; Zielinski; Milik, Piatek
- England have lost just one of the 19 games they have played against Poland till date (W11 D7), with the sole defeat coming way back in 1973.
- In fact, England have won each of their last eight games against Poland on home soil, with the only two other outings ending in a draw.
- Poland have managed to win just one of their last four games across all competitions (D1 L2). The White and Reds have a similar record on their travels, winning just one of their last four on the road (D1 L2).
- England have won 12 of their last 13 fixtures across all competitions, with the only other game ending in a 1-0 defeat to Denmark last October.
- Nick Pope is yet to concede a single goal when playing for the England national side, keeping a clean sheet in each of his six outings till date.
Player to Watch
The talk of the town well ahead of the game between England and Poland would have been the battle between Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane. However, in the absence of Lewandowski, it now becomes a match that will have Kane showcasing just the kind of difference he makes.
The England captain has been hailed by head coach Gareth Southgate in the build-up to the game and this will be a contest in which he can potentially inspire the Three Lions to a straightforward win. A fixture in which Kane will likely make a telling impact in a big way to prove that he is indeed one of the best strikers in the world.
England 2-0 Poland
There are no two ways about it. Robert Lewandowski’s absence will have a major impact on how Poland take the game to England. The Three Lions should, in fact, be largely untroubled in the absence of the Poland captain, with Harry Kane having a huge influence at the other end. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Gareth Southgate & co.