Montenegro vs England - Preview
An exciting front two against a depleted defence provides the main point of interest for England‘s trip to Montenegro on Tuesday.
In Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic, the home side have a Serie A quality strike partnership that threatens to derail England’s hopes of topping qualifying Group H. A Montenegro win would see them move five points clear of the Three Lions with only two qualifiers left to play.
The two forwards will have watched England’s wrestling bout with Rio Ferdinand with a sense of joy. His absence, the retirement of John Terry and injuries to a number of center-halves have left England with a dearth of options at the back. Joleon Lescott and Chris Smalling look set to start in their place, neither having been selected in Roy Hodgson’s squad prior to the withdrawals.
Lescott, who will earn his 26th cap in Podgorica, ended up with the captain’s armband during Friday’s 8-0 disposal of minnows San Marino, and whilst his club future hangs in the balance at Manchester City, he will hope to make the position his own for England with a shut out tomorrow night. Smalling represents an investment for the future of English football, and that he has leapfrogged club team-mate Phil Jones in the selection stakes marks a fine year for the £10m youngster.
Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson are likely to sit either side of the back two, and with Joe Hart behind, it is from these areas that Smalling will seek experience in dealing with the Jovetic/Vucinic threat. The possible inclusion of Michael Carrick or Scott Parker in midfield should add some muscle to the England defensive cause. It would be a savvy move by Hodgson.
The home side are likely to play on the temperament of Wayne Rooney, who was sent off for a petulant kick on Miodrag Dzudovic during this same fixture in October 2011. The incident transformed Rooney’s career, however, and he has since accumulated only seven yellow cards and not a single red. Montenegro may well be better served concentrating on keeping him quiet on the ball.
Captain Steven Gerrard will return to the England line-up, and the battle between Arsenal club mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will rear its head once more after the latter’s starring role on Friday. The inclusion of a holding man might do for Frank Lampard, but again, his performance against San Marino points to an inclusion. Hodgson has decisions to make going in to this game, that’s for sure.
If Lescott and Smalling can keep out the Montenegrin twosome up top, then he might well be celebrating a win this weekend.