England vs Montenegro: Southgate’s men can secure qualification at Wembley

England can celebrate qualification for Euro 2020 if they get a result against Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on Thursday evening.

Matthew Crist

England go into their 1000th international against Montenegro on Thursday night hoping all the talk will be about what happens on the pitch after a difficult few weeks for Gareth Southgate’s side.

Gareth Southgate’s side are three points clear at the top of Group A, and need just one point from their two remaining games to seal their place at next summer’s European Championships, and no doubt they will be looking for a convincing performance following something of a tricky period.

Their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign appeared to be going faultlessly as a place in next summer’s showpiece looked all but confirmed, and though far from derailing their chances, a number of distractions off the field have blighted things somewhat.

England cruised through their first three games of qualifying with a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic followed by a 5-1 victory at Montenegro and 4-0 defeat of Bulgaria at Wembley; but since then things haven’t gone so smoothly.

They conceded a first-minute goal to Kosovo, before eventually winning the game 5-3 as defensive weaknesses allowed the visitors to mount the most unlikely of comebacks at St Mary’s and provide Gareth Southgate with plenty to think about.

Wembley Stadium


Then, having taken an early lead in Prague against an ordinary looking Czech Republic outfit, England fell asleep once more and allowed the home side to turn the game on its head, inflicting the first qualification defeat on the Three Lions for a decade.

That was followed by the unsavoury episode in Bulgaria where events off the pitch dominated the headlines as racial abuse from the home supporters threatened to end the game prematurely before England eventually ran-out convincing 6-0 winners.

And just when it looked like England could look forward to a period of relative tranquility as they prepare to celebrate a milestone in international football history, their preparations have been overshadowed by the spat between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez at St George’s Park.

Even so, it’s difficult to see anything other than a home win here, despite their recent problems against a Montenegro side who are ranked 61st in the world, an “honour” they share with Bulgaria – a side that England made light work of on a difficult night in Sofia.

Montenegro are yet to register a win in any of their seven games so far, managing three draws – 1-1 and 0-0 against Bulgaria and a 1-1 draw at home to Kosovo – scoring just three and conceding an eye watering 15.

As well as the omission of Raheem Sterling, who was dropped from the squad following his training ground altercation with Joe Gomez, England will also be without Everton’s Fabian Delph who is suffering from a hamstring injury.

Jordan Henderson will also be missing due to suspension, though he will feature in the second game of this double-header against Kosovo on Tuesday night, but England fans will be hoping that game is nothing more than a dead rubber as they look to secure qualification with an emphatic win in front of an expectant home crowd.

England vs Montenegro
Thursday, November 14th
Live on ITV1

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