Montenegro - England Preview: Group H top-spot at stake in Podgorica clash
With Roy Hodgson's men able to leapfrog their opposition with a win, there is much to play for as the away side strive for the spoils in spite of having a makeshift defence
By Sam Wells
V. Bozovic, Basa, Savic, Volkov
Zverotic, Novakovic, Vukcevic
Kasalica, Vucinic, Jovetic
Johnson, Smalling, Lescott, Cole
Milner, Rooney, Young
Montenegro look set to retain the bulk of the team that saw off Moldova 1-0 on Friday, however, Mitar Novakovic could step in for the suspended Milorad Pekovic, who was dismissed against Moldova on Friday.
That absence only serves to heighten Montenegro's midfield-related woes as midfielders Nikola Drincic and Branko Boskovic have already been ruled out of tie with injuries.
Savo Pavicevic is also suspended having picked up a booking against Moldova, meaning that Vladimir Bozovic is likely to deputise at right-back with Simon Vukcevic coming into the midfield.
Various players rested for the 8-0 mauling of San Marino look likely to return, with Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and James Milner set to start at the expense of Kyle Walker, Leighton Baines, Frank Lampard and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Jermain Defoe, meanwhile, looks set to retain his place after bagging a double in the routine rout against the Sammarinese, with both Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge likely to have to make do with a place on the bench.
Chris Smalling and Joleon Lescott are also expected to continue their partnership at the heart of defence in Montenegro after a quiet evening's work on Friday.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Both of the previous encounters between Montenegro and England have ended in draws; the first a 0-0 draw at Wembley in October 2010, while the second, a year later, ended 2-2, with Wayne Rooney infamously dismissed for lashing out at Miodrag Dzudovic.
- Mirko Vucinic (pictured right) is his country's leading goalscorer since claiming independence in 2006 with 14 goals in 30 games.
Vucinic is 27/10 with BetVictor to score at any time in this game.
- The home side have also been in fine form defensively, having kept four consecutive clean sheets, though two of those were against San Marino, the others being 1-0 wins over Ukraine and Moldova.
- England, meanwhile, have been in fine form offensively; they are currently the highest scorers in the European section of the 2014 World Cup Qualification Phase with 20 goals, 13 of which were scored against San Marino.
- They have also had the most different scorers in Group H as nine separate players have netted for their home country over the course of the five games played thus far (Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe, James Milner, Leighton Baines, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young and Daniel Sturridge).
- Though unlikely to start here, Welbeck has been in prolific international form; the Manchester United striker has had five shots on target for England - and scored all of them.
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Top 3 Predictions
Montenegro 1-3 England
- 13.63 %
Montenegro 1-2 England
- 11.72 %
Montenegro 0-2 England
- 10.39 %
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||11 Oct 2013||England 4 - Montenegro 1|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||26 Mar 2013||Montenegro 1 - England 1|
|Euro 2012 (EC)||7 Oct 2011||Montenegro 2 - England 2|
|Euro 2012 (EC)||12 Oct 2010||England 0 - Montenegro 0|
|5 Mar 2014||Montenegro 1 - Ghana 0||FR|
|17 Nov 2013||Luxembourg 1 - Montenegro 4||FR|
|15 Oct 2013||Montenegro 2 - Moldova 5||WCQE|
|11 Oct 2013||England 4 - Montenegro 1||WCQE|
|6 Sep 2013||Poland 1 - Montenegro 1||WCQE|
|1||Vukasin Radomir Poleksic||Goalkeeper|
The ever-increasing interest in him from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City makes Jovetic an obvious focal point of the England defence's attentions, never mind the threat that he poses a back four that are relatively unfamiliar with one another. Typically playing just off the frontman, he has notched 12 goals in 24 games for Fiorentina so far this season and will be looking to carry that form into international duty.
The young centre-back was, predictably, barely tested against San Marino, but this fixture could prove a real test of Smalling's mettle as he comes up against the formidable duo of Jovetic and Vucinic in the Montenegro attack. Though he hasn't featured particularly often for Manchester United this season, the 23-year-old will be keen to fill the void left by Rio Ferdinand's absence and his partnership with Joleon Lescott will be vital if England are to win.
With so much at stake in this game, it is bound to be an enthralling encounter. The various threats posed by Montenegro's attack could be exacerbated by the Three Lions' makeshift defence. Nevertheless, England should have just enough to climb above their opposition in the table and take another step towards Brazil 2014.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed