Sven-Goran Eriksson admitted today's World Cup qualifier against Finland is the biggest game of his 20-year career as he targeted the victory needed to resurrect England's chances of reaching the 2002 finals.

Eriksson's plans have been largely undisturbed by injury this week, although Steve Gerrard still faces a late fitness test to check whether he has again woken up with a stiff back.

But with just one point from England's opening two qualifiers, the Swede appreciates this is a ''must-win game'' or, as captain David Beckham put it, it is the start of the ''serious stuff'' after the 3-0 friendly win against Spain.

Eriksson may have managed at the top level with clubs such as Lazio, Roma and Benfica, but he revealed: ''This will be the most important game of my career.

''I have won the league in Italy, Portugal and Sweden, so I have had many must-win games before and it will be the same this time as well.

''But when you are a club manager, it's for the supporters of the club. In Benfica's case, that is 120,000 people.

''That number this time is nothing at all in comparison with how many people are behind England.

''That is quite new and quite exciting.

''It is also very important. It's quite a responsibility, of course it is. I know that, it's a big job.''

Eriksson added: ''The Spain game, my first with England, was of course something special. I was standing there and listening to the national anthem and felt goose-bumps down my arms.

''It was a very nice sensation though. I am Swedish but I feel very proud to be where I am.''

Confidence in the squad is high, with assistant coach Peter Taylor having predicted a 3-0 scoreline on a radio station, and Eriksson backing Andy Cole to finally break his international goal drought at the home of Liverpool.

Eriksson gives little away about his emotions, let alone his likely line-up, although he believes that the players, who will not learn the starting XI until 12.30pm, have already guessed it.

With the Swede admitting that if his plans ''have changed since last week, they have changed very little'', at least the majority of his side is therefore virtually certain.

David Seaman is the favourite to regain his place in goal, although David James and Nigel Martyn are both regarded as strong rivals and that has been the Swede's self-confessed most difficult selection choice.

A back four of Chris Powell, who would therefore keep his place after making his debut against Spain, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville all trained together this week.

And with Nicky Barmby injured, Steve McManaman is expected to return to Anfield on the left side of a midfield also including Gerrard if fit, Paul Scholes and Beckham, while Nicky Butt will be on standby.

With Michael Owen possibly adopting a deeper role again, and Cole up front, England have the quality to beat the Finns, who held them to a goalless draw last October, but only if they can perform as a team again.

Eriksson will therefore put aside any thoughts of the relative importance of the game to him personally or to the crowd as he tries to ensure they travel to Albania on Monday with three more points.

''When you have the team on the field or are in the dressing-room before the game, you don't think about that,'' he said.

''You can't. You think about how to win it. If we want to play in Japan and South Korea, we have to do well, but it will not be easy.''

Asked about his inevitable 'ice-man' reputation, the Swede responded: ''I don't know about that.

''Will I be nervous? Yes, but I'm not suffering from being too nervous. I will still sleep ahead of the game.''

One of the main priorities facing England will be stopping the dangerous Jari Litmanen, who dropped off to great effect against them in Helsinki and has been doing the same for Liverpool recently.

''I did not mark man-to-man even when we played against Diego Maradona in Italy, although maybe it would have been a better solution!'' said Eriksson.

''I always think you lose too much in your attacking play when you do that.

"You have to try not to give him too much time and space.''

The Swede has watched the video tape of that goalless draw twice and has concluded that England, with all their injury problems following the resignation of Kevin Keegan just a couple of days beforehand, were ''unlucky''.

With Ray Parlour's shot striking the crossbar and bouncing over the line - a fact not seen by the referee at the time , he said: ''They could have won the game.

"Maybe the Finnish goalkeeper could also have been sent off twice.

''But it's never easy to play against Finland, especially away from home. Nil-nil is not a bad result.''

It would be today though. Keegan found to his cost that honeymoon periods can be extremely short.

Eriksson will hope his continues for a while yet.