BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Three Lions set to dominate again

ITV, 7.45pm Monday
Euro 2020 qualifying Group A


England did not drop a point during Euro 2016 qualifying and they can maintain their 100 per cent record on the road to Euro 2020 by beating Montenegro.

The Three Lions have visited the tight, atmospheric Podgorica City Stadium twice and had to settle for a point each time, drawing 2-2 during Euro 2012 qualifying and 1-1 in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.

However, the gap between the teams has widened in recent years and odds-on favourites England have been well-backed to win the game.

Montenegro were competitive in the early stages of their World Cup qualifying group but finished with successive defeats at home to Denmark (1-0) and away to Poland (4-2), consigning them to third place.

Their decline continued in Nations League C Group 4 where they finished third of four teams below Serbia and Romania.

Of the seven points Montenegro gathered in the Nations League, six came against Lithuania, who lost all six of their games.

Montenegro lost at home to Serbia (2-0) and Romania (1-0) and are losing the reputation they once had of being a side the top teams need to be wary of.

However, given the weakness of Group A, which also features Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Kosovo, there is still an opportunity for Montenegro to achieve a top-two finish and reach a major finals for the first time.

They made a decent enough start by drawing 1-1 away to Bulgaria on Friday and will probably have been pleased to see England hammer the Czechs 5-0 at Wembley.

Anything they pick up against England would be a massive bonus but their chances are reduced by the absence through injury of their star player, Monaco attacker Stevan Jovetic, who has netted 24 goals in 51 internationals.

Fatos Beciraj is the top scorer in the squad with nine goals in 60 matches, but the main threat to England could come from tall centre-forward Stefan Mugosa, who has bagged four goals in Montenegro's last four matches.

Mugosa plays for Incheon in the South Korean top flight and is excelling, scoring 21 goals in 38 appearances.

While facing England will be a big step up in class, he is in a confident frame of mind and will have to be closely marshalled.

However, getting a decent service to Mugosa could be tricky.

Montenegro's main preoccupation will be to restrict the spaces for England's exciting attack.

However, their powers of resistance could be reduced by the absence of Atletico Madrid central defender Stefan Savic, who missed the Bulgaria match with a hamstring strain.

Nonetheless they were solid enough in Sofia and defending is probably their strength, given the presence of Lazio right-back Adam Marusic and Red Star Belgrade defender Filip Stojkovic in their back four.

England would make their lives a lot easier if they can score early and they are likely to be under instruction from Gareth Southgate to start at a high tempo.

Southgate's side are gaining a reputation as fast-starters, having notched seven first-half goals in their last four matches.

It may not take long for the movement and class of Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Jadon Sancho and Harry Kane to unlock the home side.

Matching the Czech Republic scoreline will be tough but England should be in control by the break and cruise to victory.

Recommendation
England-England double result

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

 

Match in Focus

18:00 TODAY

Hammarby v Elfsborg

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Elfsborg are winless in six matches
Expert verdict
Hammarby boss Stefan Billborn has urged his team to continue to "attack, attack, attack" as they target a top-three berth in the Allsvenskan and they can flex their goalscoring muscle against midtable Elfsborg. Billborn's men have won only seven of their 15 league assignments this term but their attacking players are in excellent nick, thumping Falkenberg 6-2 before a 3-2 success against Sundsvall.