Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
England’s footballers can make certain of what has been clear for some time tonight by winning a home game against a team they’ve already trounced on the road. Montenegro are the visitors here and, should Gareth Southgate’s men emerge with the three points, they’ll guarantee qualification for Euro 2020 with a game to spare – allowing them to treat next week’s visit to Kosovo as a glorified friendly.
Montenegro are unlikely to provide too stern an obstacle for the Three Lions, as they sit joint-bottom of the group alongside Bulgaria, without a win to their name during qualification. They have managed three draws, but two of those were against Bulgaria, so England really shouldn’t have to pull up any trees to get what they need this evening.
England vs Montenegro Prediction: England 4-0 Montenegro
England will take to the pitch without arguably their best player, after a training-ground bust-up between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez saw the former removed from contention for one match. While Southgate is giving nothing away regarding his starting line-up, in practice this is likely to mean Jadon Sancho switches to Sterling’s left-wing berth and Marcus Rashford slots in on the right. For Montenegro, the eventual experience is likely to change very little – with only pride to play for against a better-resourced side, this will be a one-sided encounter.
Our recommended tip: Over 3.5 goals
There are no easy games at this level, but some are definitely less difficult than others, and this is one that falls into that category for England. Montenegro are usually not without some genuinely blue-chip players, as Atletico defender Stefan Savic and prolific striker Stevan Jovetic are 50-cap internationals for the former Yugoslav republic. Unfortunately for the visitors, both men are missing through injury and in their absence the squad is pretty bare. They can merely hope to frustrate England here, but we don’t think it’ll be for long, and BetVictor’s 11/10 price on the game having at least four goals looks attractive.
For a side that has only been a separate entity for a little over a decade, Montenegro have a habit of turning up in England’s fixture calendar; this is the third qualifying group they have shared. Across the first three meetings, too, the underdogs held their own, pegging the English to 0-0, 2-2 and 1-1 draws between 2010 and 2013. On the last two meetings, though, it’s been heavily England. A 4-1 win at Wembley in 2013 was followed last March by a 5-1 hammering in Podgorica. The hosts took the lead on that occasion, but England stirred on the half-hour and goals from Michael Keane, Ross Barkley (x2), Harry Kane and Sterling turned the night around.
Top 3 Euro 2020 Qualifying Bookies
Players to watch: Jadon Sancho & Sead Hakšabanović
In Sterling’s absence, the role of “tricky winger who can score, create and madden defenders” falls onto Sancho’s shoulders, and tonight may be the best time for that to happen. The Dortmund star’s form is attracting criticism from pundits for perhaps the first time in his young career, but a decent showing tonight could make a big difference to his confidence levels. The recent international against Kosovo saw him grab his first international goals – with his senior winger missing tonight, could he get another few?
Born in Sweden, attacking midfielder Hakšabanović performed well enough for Allsvenskan side Halmstad to persuade West Ham to part with £3million for his signature when he was 18. While he has appeared sparingly in claret and blue the talented Hakšabanović has done well enough on loan at Malaga, and more recently at Norrkoping, to offer hope that he could be a cut above for the national side.